The Family Drug/Dependency Treatment Court (FDTC) works with parent(s) / guardian(s) who are in danger of losing custody of their children due to abuse or neglect charges. The courts help ensure compliance with the Adoption and Safe Families Act. (Young, Wong, Adkins, & Simpson, 2003).
Goals of family drug/dependency treatment courts include:
- Provide parent(s) / guardians(s) with an opportunity to be clean and sober;
- Providing support to aid them in resisting further criminal activity; and skills that will aid them in leading productive, substance-free and crime-free lives;
- Helping the parent to become emotionally, financially, and personally self-sufficient;
- To increase the personal, familial, and societal accountability of offenders;
- Helping the parent(s) / guardian(s) develop adequate parenting and "coping" skills to be able to serve as an effective parent on a day-to-day basis; and
- Decrease the amount of time needed to determine if reunification is a plausible goal.
Family Drug Treatment Courts (FDTC) are a response to the need for greater accountability of parents of abused and/or neglected children and the treatment and justice systems intended to serve them. The program is available to parents who have lost custody of their children or who are in danger of losing custody of their children due to abuse and/or neglect where the courts have jurisdiction over the case and family. Parents must be determined to be addicted or have a high likelihood of addiction to drugs and/or alcohol and they must agree to enter the program.
FDTC participants are also assessed for domestic violence, trauma and other mental health concerns and are referred to treatment. Family Drug Courts follow the same principles as other "problem solving" courts. Participants are provided a court-based case manager who ensures the parents receive treatment and other needed services. Participants must submit to frequent and random urinalysis and/or breathalyzer to determine whether they are becoming and remaining free of drugs and alcohol. They must attend and participate in treatment and are required to complete other educational programs as prescribed by the court and the Department of Social Services (DSS). FDTC participants are generally required to attend court every two weeks and receive praise and other incentives to maintain their recovery and progress in treatment. Although the FDTC cannot promise successful parents that their children will be returned to them, a parent who is successful in the FDTC is much more likely to be determined by DSS and the Abuse, Neglect, and Dependency Court to be fit to have their child(ren) returned. Parents who do not comply with the requirements of the FDTC will be sanctioned by the court and may be ordered to serve jail time.
Family Drug Treatment Courts have experienced an upsurge of local, state and national interest as states confront: (1) the full implications of the Adoption and Safe Families Act (ASFA) passed in 1999 and (2) the confounding fact that 70 - 90% of all child removal cases involve a parent/guardian who abuses drugs or alcohol. ASFA requires the courts and DSS to act immediately upon removal of a child and to determine a safe and permanent home for that child within one year from removal. While the Act was written to end the practice of children languishing in foster care for years until they are no longer of an age or temperament for adoption, the tight timetable has placed strain on limited treatment resources for parents and families. The FDTC ensures that parents are assessed for and admitted to treatment services quickly and provides parents with the structures and supports that may give an addicted parent his/her best chance at recovery within the time restraints of ASFA.
During the latter part of 2000, the NC Legislative Study Commission on Children and Youth voted to introduce legislation that would promote and support Family DTC programs in jurisdictions that have an infrastructure supporting an existing Drug Treatment or Family Court. FDTC was included in 2001 legislation N.C.G.S § 7A-790.
All FDTC programs are currently grant funded and utilize existing community resources, when available, to respond to parent and family needs.