18 Child L. Prac. 1 (1999-2000)

handle is hein.journals/chilawpt18 and id is 1 raw text is: Special Issue:
Family Drug Courts

Child Law Practice

Vol. 18 No. I

March 1999

Helping Lawyers Help Kids

Family Drug Courts May Hold The Key for
Abused and Neglected Children of Substance Abusers

A family court judge  description of
a routine dependency case:
Client: Immature, young, single
mother in her 20's. Methamphet-
amine or crack cocaine user for 5 -
10 years. The custodial parent of
three children who have been taken
into foster care. Her welfare checks
are taken to defray foster care costs.
Disposition: Mom is ordered into
drug treatment, anger management/
domestic violence and psychological
counseling, with supervised visitation
with her children (who are placed
some distance out of the city).
Case Progress: Without welfare
money, mom becomes homeless and
moves in with old drug-abusing
friends. She stays on a waiting list for
six months before getting into a drug
treatment program. At the 12-month
permanency planning hearing, the
caseworker reports mom has only
been in treatment for six months and
has had some relapses. The judge
grants mom more time in treatment to
meet the reasonable services provi-
sion. The children remain in foster
care and begin to show signs of at-
tachment disorder.
Case Outcome: Mom doesn't
comply with treatment and never gets
sober. Her parental rights are termi-
nated. Her children are considered
unadoptable due to their long stay in
foster care.

hi' Sharon G. Elstein
Parental drug or alcohol addiction com-
plicates permanency planning for chil-
dren in foster care. Parental drug addic-
tion is pervasive among families whose
children enter foster care.' Researchers
estimate that half the tlmilies involved
with the child welfare system nationally
are impacted by substance abuse.2
Child welfare professionals support that
These families create numerous
challenges for caseworkers and courts
due to the nature of addiction (see box,
p. 7). The all-too-common child wel-
fare system response to parental addic-
tion - delaying reunification while
the parent cycles in and out of treat-
ment - is not always the most effec-
tive approach.' It has been described
as a nightmare for its inability to
motivate parents to address their sub-
stance abuse for their children's sake.4
Family drug courts have the poten-
tial to help break the cycle of drug de-
pendency among families served by
the child welfare system. Like tradi-
tional family courts, family drug courts
have civil jurisdiction over depen-
dency, abuse, and neglect proceedings.
They may also handle custody and
visitation disputes, child support mat-
ters, termination of parental rights peti-
tions, and guardianship proceedings.
Unlike traditional flamily courts, how-
ever, family drug courts focus on pro-
viding intensive drug treatment and
service delivery to parents with sub-

stance abuse problems, in addition to
their usual tasks.
Family drug courts have emerged
within the last few years in response to
the growing awareness that traditional
responses to parental drug addiction
often do not work well. These courts
address the needs of families involved
in the child welfare system where pa-
rental substance abuse is a factor. Un-
der the supervision of a judge, family
drug courts offer intensive drug treat-
ment intervention and supportive ser-
vices, within a structure of sanctions
and incentives. It is an approach worth
How Family Drug
Courts Work
The family drug court concept has
components similar to adult and
juvenile drug courts. Although the
court processes may differ from
jurisdiction-to-jurisdiction, family
(Continued next page)
What's Inside:
6   How Family Drug
Courts Evolved
10  Flow to Start a
Family Drug Court
12  II Tips for Family Drug

E-mail: childlawpractice@stalT.abanet.org

Internet: littp://www.abainet.org/chiild


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