Young children living in poverty have significant unmet dental needs and often have reduced quality of life as a result of severe tooth decay, also known as early childhood caries. Untreated dental disease remains a sustained, unmet health need for many children living in Rochester.
Every day, hundreds of these young children accompany parents or caregivers to scheduled court appearances, many of whom are five years or younger and not receiving vital services, including health, educational and nutritional benefits.
While in court, the children may be exposed to disturbing proceedings, or their presence can be a distraction from judicial business. But if kept outside the courtroom in waiting areas, the children may endure boredom and discomfort in waiting areas.
New York helped solve this problem by developing the nation’s first statewide system of cheerful, welcoming Children’s Centers in the courts, providing a safe, literacy-rich environment and an opportunity for positive interventions in the lives of vulnerable children. (see more info at end of article)
The Children’s Center recently invited Eastman Dental to talk with the kids about the importance of keeping their mouths clean and healthy. “The children had fun coloring pictures related to good hygiene and were pleased to see their artwork hung on a bulletin board for all to view,” said Lenora Colaruotolo, EIOH social worker.
“It was a great opportunity to discuss the importance of children’s oral health with parents when they returned from their court appearance, and to offer referral information to a dental home.
The Monroe County Children’s Center–a short-term, drop-off childcare facility at the Monroe County Hall of Justice is designed to provide a free, safe-haven for young children while their parents are in court for a variety of reasons, including orders of protection for domestic violence, custody, child support, maltreatment, substance use, and juvenile delinquency.
In addition, it also provides a setting in which children and families at-risk for poor outcomes are connected to needed services. Depending on the parent’s court appearance, children could spend from one hour to an entire day at the Center. Because of the high turnover rate each day, the Center serves more than 3,000 children per year.
“Given the high-risk population served by the Center, Eastman Dental was pleased to participate in Dental Health Week,” she added. “We provided oral health screenings, education and guidance, and gave away hygiene items and brochures.
“Thanks to EIOH hygienist Mary Pistelli and EIOH Social Work intern Andrea Licata, we successfully served many vulnerable families,” Colaruotolo added.
About the Children’s Centers
The Children’s Centers have turned a problem into a possibility, with positive outcomes for families. They regularly facilitate connections between families and services such as Head Start, WIC, food stamps, literacy and other community services.
The Children’s Center’s mission is to provide~
- A safe, supportive haven for children in the courthouse;
- A vehicle for connecting families to needed services.
Local community agencies, which include some of New York’s premier child care organizations, provide day-to-day operation and supervision in the Centers under contract with the Unified Court System.
The project was initiated in 1994 by the New York State Permanent Judicial Commission on Justice for Children and is currently administered by the Office of Court Administration’s Division of Professional and Court Services, Office of Alternative Dispute Resolution and Court Improvement. The project continues to operate with the support, advice and counsel of the Commission.