In 15 years on the bench, Miami-Dade County Dependency Court Judge Cindy Lederman has seen countless abused and neglected children re-enter the court system as struggling young parents.A few years into the job, she realized that the court system was ill-equipped to help these stressed parents learn to care for their children: It was focused on applying the law rather than looking at the science that explains their behavior. The court ignored issues like parents' depression or their lack of knowledge that can lead them to mistreat their children, Lederman says. It also failed to notice that once children 5 and younger enter the system, they are four to five times more likely to have developmental disorders as children in the general population.
"I saw so many girls grow up in this system and then re-enter the system as parents," she says. "It's an endless cycle. So I thought to myself, 'When can this circle of maltreatment stop?'"
To find out, Lederman recruited psychologist Joy D. Osofsky, PhD, a pediatrics and psychiatry professor at Louisiana State University's Health Sciences Center.
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