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Eighteenth Judicial Circuit Courts
Serving the Citizens of Brevard and Seminole Counties

Brevard Early Childhood Court

– INTRODUCING THE FIRST EARLY CHILDHOOD COURT IN BREVARD COUNTY –

The Eighteenth Judicial Circuit has launched an Early Childhood Court in Brevard County. ECC is for young children and their families involved in dependency court because of allegations of abuse or neglect. ECC is a trauma-responsive court providing therapeutic jurisprudence and multidisciplinary team support for infants and toddlers ages three and younger. One of the young child’s parents must consent to voluntarily participate in the ECC program.

EARLY CHILDHOOD COURT OFFERS:

Healing Through Action - A Unique Window of Opportunity

Family PhotoTo be effective, interventions must begin early and be designed with infants, toddlers, and families in mind. Given this critical time when young children’s brains and social attachments are developing, the ECC program offers the following specialized evidence-based interventions resulting in positive outcomes. 

    • Judicial Leadership with frequent court hearings to review progress.
    • Trauma-Responsive court involvement.
    • Specialized evidence-based therapeutic programs.
    • Relationship-based assessment of each child and parent with treatment recommendations for reunification.
    • Highly individualized case plans addressing specific needs of parents to young children.
    • Child Parent Psychotherapy focused on improving parent-child relationship.
    • Infant Mental Health Services to screen for developmental and social-emotional treatment needs
    • Parent psychosocial education to promote better long-term developmental outcomes for children.
    • Significant parent and caregiver involvement with services, meetings, and hearings. 
    • Family Team Meetings with parents and multidisciplinary professionals.
    • Community resource navigation assistance.
    • Parent case plan support and coaching.
    • Increased family time to strengthen attachment and expedite permanency.
    • Building co-parenting relationships between parents and resource families.
    • Placement stability and concurrent planning.
    • Child-Centered decision making for healthy development and timely permanency.
    • Promoting healing and resilience for children and their families.

EARLY CHILDHOOD COURT BENEFITS ARE:

What Are the Goals, Process And Benefits?

INTRODUCING THE FIRST EARLY CHILDHOOD COURT IN BREVARD COUNTY


The Eighteenth Judicial Circuit has launched an Early Childhood Court in Brevard County. ECC is for young children and their families involved in dependency court because of allegations of abuse or neglect. ECC is a trauma-responsive court providing therapeutic jurisprudence and multidisciplinary team support for infants and toddlers ages three and younger. One of the young child’s parents must consent to voluntarily participate in the ECC program.


 

Father holding toddler.The Goal:

The goal of Florida’s Early Childhood Court is to improve child safety and well-being, heal trauma and repair the parent/child relationship, expedite permanency, prevent recurrence of maltreatment, and stop the intergenerational cycle of abuse, neglect, and violence.

The ECC program and its team members including parents working together to change the tragedy that brought the family into court into an opportunity to heal.


 
 
family dining togetherMaking a difference in the lives of families:

ECC offers an intensive program for the youngest, most vulnerable children and their parents involved in the dependency division. Abuse and neglect are harmful to a young child’s developing brain and social, emotional development. More than fifty percent of children involved in dependency cases are under age five with infants under age one being the largest group.


 

father hugging childWho Benefits From This Program:

The Early Childhood Court program is for families involved in dependency court having at least one child age three or younger. To participate, at least one parent needs to be committed to voluntarily participating in the program.

ECC is a voluntary program. Parents chose to voluntarily participate in the specialized interventions provided by a multidisciplinary team of professionals including child development experts. This team will support the family during the difficult time of separation while striving to achieve permanency as soon as safely possible.

Parents involved in dependency court have often experienced adverse childhood experiences resulting in personal and multi-generational trauma. The specialized therapeutic interventions used in the ECC program simultaneously focus on healing the trauma of young children and their parents to break the adverse childhood experiences trajectory.


 

Family timeStarting the Healing Process:

Trauma healing in the ECC program is accomplished using child parent psychotherapy which also strengthens parent child attachment for the goal of reunification. The ECC program also provides psycho-educational parenting to build attunement and secure attachment in parents’ relationships with their children. Parent participation and input are key at monthly family team meetings focused on ensuring the developmental needs and well-being of children are met.

Judicial leadership holds frequent court hearings to monitor progress towards permanency. The core components of the ECC program stem from the science of early childhood development and infant mental health to ensure meaningful services for children; empower parents to have a voice throughout the process; and build a supportive community around each family. The California Evidence-Based Clearinghouse for Child Welfare has listed the Safe Babies Court Team approach as having promising research evidence and high child welfare system relevance.

EARLY CHILDHOOD COURT RESOURCES:

COMMUNITY PARTNERS/STAKEHOLDERS

booksView Florida's Best Practice Standards and Commentary on how Early Childhood Court operates.


na

Administrative Order and Policies & Procedures establishing and governing Brevard's Early Childhood Court.


forms

Below are the specific forms used for referral and participation in Early Childhood Court.

quote


Our Favorite Quote:

“Perhaps the butterfly is proof that you can go through a great deal of darkness yet become something beautiful.” - Unknown

EARLY CHILDHOOD COURT RESOURCES:

Information for Attorneys, Parties, and Participants – Helpful Resources and Forms

COMMUNITY PARTNERS / STAKEHOLDERS

 
Collaboration promotes healthy families and children. By working together, a cross-sector ECC team comprised of experts in infant/toddler mental health, social-emotional development, and specialists in child welfare are implementing comprehensive research-based approaches benefiting young children and their families in Brevard County.
 

 

naPARENT PARTICIPATION

Parents participating in Early Childhood Court are key members of the ECC Team along with community partners. This multidisciplinary partnership improves the timeliness, coordination, and effectiveness of services. Parents benefit from community partners providing supportive supervision and specialized services from the multiple professionals working with them.
 

 

naSUPPORT FOR FAMILIES

Parents develop resilience to cope with life challenges, social connections with positive relationships, knowledge of parenting and child development, and concrete support in times of need and after case closure. Children benefit from safe, nurturing home environments and developmental supports to heal and fulfill their potential later in life.
 

The Honorable Kelly McKibben

MEET THE ECC JUDGE

The Honorable Kelly McKibben

The Honorable Kelly J. McKibben will preside over Early Childhood Court setting aside a special docket for children age three and younger whose parents participate in the program. Judge McKibben is a trauma-trained judicial leader committed to improving the lives of young children and their families by utilizing a collaborative court team to make informed decisions and decrease the length of time to reach permanency.

naJudicial leadership is key in facilitating better outcomes for young children by improving court procedures. Judge McKibben has many years of judicial experience in the dependency division. She is also the presiding judge for Brevard’s Adult Drug Court, another type of problem-solving court. ECC involves non-adversarial court proceedings utilizing therapeutic jurisprudence. Judge McKibben fosters a child-friendly courtroom, and young children are welcome to attend court hearings with their parents and caregivers.

This enables the judge to observe parents and children together, the parents’ attunement to meeting their children’s needs, and children’s attachment relationships. During hearings, Judge McKibben listens to parents and other members of the collaborative multidisciplinary court team who provide expertise on infant mental health and parent/child bonding and attachment. With extensive trauma-responsive experience, Judge McKibben is an ideal member of the judiciary to launch this new court program with the support of community partners. 
 

 
CHAMPIONS, MEMBERS, AND ADVOCATES
 
  • Parents and Children Served
  • Relative & Non-Relative Caregivers
  • Foster Parents
  • Child Parent Psychotherapists
  • Brevard County’s Families and Communities
  • Brevard Family Partnership Family of Agencies
  • Family Allies
  • Healthy Start Coalition of Brevard
  • Space Coast Early Steps
  • Infant Mental Health Specialists
  • Guardian ad Litem Program
  • Office of Criminal Conflict and Civil Regional Counsel
  • Children’s Legal Services
  • Department of Children and Families
  • Eighteenth Judicial Circuit Court
  • Florida’s Early Childhood Courts

EARLY CHILDHOOD COURT PROGRAM DIRECTOR:

We welcome you reaching out!

Dina MezzaDina Mezza
Community Coordinator
Early Childhood Court
Phone: 321-635-5070
Email: Dina.mezza@flcourts18.org

Dina Mezza is FSU Certified in Trauma & Resilience Level 1 & 2

Viera Moore Justice CenterMoore Justice Center
2825 Judge Fran Jamieson Way
Early Childhood Court
Court Administration – Third Floor
Viera, FL 32940

EARLY CHILDHOOD COURT INFORMATIONAL VIDEOS:

Videos that take a closer look at the science of early childhood development

naCHILDHOOD TRAUMA

A young child’s experience of trauma, whether psychological maltreatment, neglect, exposure to violence, or physical or sexual abuse, can have long-lasting adverse effects on developmental functioning, and physical, social, or emotional well-being.

National data shows an overwhelming percentage of infants and toddlers encountered by the child welfare system have attachment problems and developmental delays. This includes a child’s physiological and emotional responses; ability to think, learn, and concentrate; their impulse control, self-image, and relationships.


 

naHEALING FAMILIES

Childhood complex trauma consisting of exposure to multiple traumatic events has been linked to far reaching adversities extending into adulthood including poor health outcomes, substance abuse/misuse, depression and anxiety, self-harming behaviors, and mental health conditions.

Early interventions promote neuroplasticity in children’s developing brains to form new neural pathways leading to healing. These videos focus on what has happened to these young children and the science-based interventions for healing trauma and strengthening the parent-child relationship to heal families and help children thrive.

 


 
Click on Video below to view. They are all YouTube videos with closed caption capability. You will be directed to the YouTube site.
 

EARLY CHILDHOOD COURT CALENDAR DATES:

ECC hearings will be calendared for specific hearing times:

Dependency cases scheduled for ECC hearings will be calendared for specific hearing times between 9:00 am - 12:00 pm or 2:00 pm - 5:00 pm.

ECC hearings are both in-person and virtual. Parties are expected to attend in-person unless excused by the court due to illness or other extenuating circumstance. A Microsoft Teams link for remote appearances will be provided to parties and participants needing to participate virtually. The ECC hearing link is https://fl18.org/judgemckibben (Judge McKibben’s virtual courtroom link).

Links for ECC hearings and family team meetings will be sent by ECC’s Community Coordinator, Dina Mezza, who may be reached at dina.mezza@flcourts18.org or 321-635-5070.

ECC HEARING DATES   FAMILY TEAM MEETING DATES
Friday, April 5, 2024
Friday, May 3, 2024
Friday, May 31, 2024
Friday, June 28, 2024
Friday, July 26, 2024
Friday, August 23, 2024
Friday, September 20, 2024
Friday, October 18, 2024
Friday, November 15, 2024
 

Thursday, April 18, 2024
Thursday, May 16, 2024
Thursday, June 13, 2024
Tuesday, July 16, 2024 *
Thursday, August 8, 2024
Tuesday, September 10, 2024 **
Tuesday, October 8, 2024 *
Thursday, October 31, 2024

* FTM weekday change due to conflict docket sounding dates and court holidays
** Date changes due to conflict with Florida Children and Families Summit 9/4 - 9/6/2024

MS Teams Logo

Teams is a platform that unifies chat, voice, and video similar to other software such as Zoom or Webex. The Eighteenth Judicial Circuit has fine-tuned Teams to effectively conduct Video hearings.

MS Teams is free and can be downloaded either as an app on your phone or as a program on your computer. All you need is to make sure you have the video camera and audio enabled on your device.

Click Here for Microsoft Teams Instructions.

Early Childhood Court Referral Form

Fill in and submit the Brevard Early Childhood Court Referral Form

Download the Parent Brochure

Download the brochure for more information

Watch the Video "Hope & Healing"

View this 21 minute tutorial on the Early Childhood Courts debut in Florida

ECC is for young children and their families involved in dependency court because of allegations of abuse or neglect.


Honorable Kelly J. McKibben is a trauma-trained judicial leader committed to improving the lives of young children and their families by utilizing a collaborative court team to make informed decisions and decrease the length of time to reach permanency. Read more by clicking Meet the ECC Team button above.

About Brevard Early Childhood Court

The First in Brevard County!

The Eighteenth Judicial Circuit has launched an Early Childhood Court in Brevard County. ECC is for young children and their families involved in dependency court because of allegations of abuse or neglect.

ECC is a trauma-responsive court providing therapeutic jurisprudence and multidisciplinary team support for infants and toddlers ages three and younger. One of the young child’s parents must consent to voluntarily participate in the ECC program.

Florida Courts Help available at the touch of a screen:

For constituents, customers, or callers seeking help with family law cases – divorce, adoption, name change, custody, order of protection, and much more – there is now a one-stop source for lots of information aimed at self-represented people. Florida Courts Help is available at app stores as well as online at help.flcourts.gov.

View Case Management Administrative Orders, video tutorial on how to properly complete and submit Case Management Plan/Orders, and more. Please ensure you are utilizing the most recent Case Management Plan and Case Management Order. Click here to view Civil Case Management Orders & Forms (Updated on 4/16/2024)
Case Management Plan/Orders