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There are approximately one million child abuse and neglect cases investigated in the United States each year involving nearly 250,000 children. An additional 2.5 million children are being raised by grandparents or other relatives. They are currently referred to as “Opioid Orphans.” The genesis for most of these cases (estimated to be between 70-90%) is the misuse of alcohol and other drugs. It’s not just illicit drugs that endanger children; it is estimated that in alcohol abusing homes children are four times more likely to be victims of maltreatment. With the growing opioid addiction epidemic, it could get even worse.
Even after court intervention, an untreated substance use disorder is associated with longer out-of-home placement; a greater likelihood of termination of parental rights; and, higher rates of child re-victimization.
In 1997 Congressed passed the Adoption and Safe Families Act that created a presumption favoring reunification with a child’s family of origin but also put those parents on a short leash in order to get back their children. Placement – either through reunification or by “permanency planning” to free up the child for adoption – must take place within 12 months after the child is placed in foster care. Prior to the advent of Family Drug Treatment Courts (FDTCs), the typical first review was in 6 months and more than 60% of parents in child abuse and neglect cases did not comply with treatment; 80% failed to complete treatment; and, few families were reunited. FDTCs have changed all that.
“A FDTC is a juvenile or family court docket for cases of child abuse or neglect in which parental substance use is a contributing factor. Its goal is to provide safe, nurturing and permanent homes for children while providing parents with the support and services they need to become abstinent.
The Court aids parents to regain control of the lives and promote long-term, stabilized recovery to enhance the possibility of family reunification.”
There are approximately 300 FDTCs in the United States and one international court in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.
The model is very much the adult drug treatment court model with the Court and collaborative agencies addressing the holistic needs of the parents.
Current research shows the efficacy of FDTCs. In a report published last year, researchers found:
Below are a few “Best Practices” that should be implemented in any Family Drug Treatment Court:
Below are useful resources for any FDTC team member or person working with these courts.
1 Marlowe, Douglas B., et al., “Painting the Current Picture: A National Report on Drug Courts and Other Problem-Solving Courts in the United States,” National Drug Court Institute (June 2016)