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Family Treatment Courts

What is Family Treatment Court?

The family treatment court (FTC) model is designed to address the needs of children and families impacted by parental substance use by using a holistic, family systems treatment approach delivered by a multidisciplinary team. FTCs serve families struggling with substance use issues whose children have been placed in the custody of Oklahoma’s Department of Human Services (DHS) and where the State of Oklahoma has filed a deprived action against the parents. Through collaboration among the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (ODMHSAS), county juvenile court systems, treatment and service providers, and DHS, FTCs seek to provide safe environments for children, with intensive judicial monitoring, and interventions to treat caregivers’ substance use disorders and other co-occurring risk factors.

The FTC’s mission is to ensure the safety and well-being of children and to offer caregivers a viable option to reunify in a timely manner. FTCs provide children and caregivers with the skills and services necessary to live productively and establish a safe environment for their families.  Professionals who make up the multidisciplinary team, work together to address the complex issues facing families affected by substance use disorders. FTC draws on best practices from the treatment court model, deprived court system, and child welfare services to effectively manage cases within Adoption and Safe Families Act (ASFA) mandates. In this way, the FTC ensures the best interests of children while providing necessary services to caregivers. Without these intensive services, the parents would risk losing custody of their children and put future children at risk (NIDA Family Treatment Court Planning Guide, 2018).

The planning, implementation, and operation of a FTC is not as simple as taking the adult criminal or juvenile delinquency treatment court model and inserting it into the deprived setting. The focus, structure, purpose, and scope of FTCs differ significantly from those of adult criminal and juvenile delinquency treatment court models and even differ from those of traditional deprived court. In the traditional deprived court system, professionals from child welfare, treatment providers, and public health systems often report separately to the court. This can result in the different disciplines making recommendations and requests that are inconsistent with each other and can ultimately lead to outcomes that may not be in the best interests of the children or support the parents’ efforts to regain custody and keep their families together (NIDA Family Treatment Court Planning Guide, 2018).

Research That Works

Early identification of needs and treatment significantly improve outcomes.

The faster someone begins treatment, the more likely they are to be retained in treatment longer.

  • Universal screening – States that mandate a universal screener, such as the UNCOPE, document alcohol and other drug use (AOD) as a reason for removal at much higher rates than states that do not (~60% vs 10%). (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services,   Administration for Children and Families, & Administration on Children, Youth and Families, Children’s Bureau, 2018)
  • Assessment – Best practice suggests individuals should be referred for assessment within 24-48 hours of identification.
  • Treatment initiation – Results are best when treatment begins no later than 7-10 days after identification.

The longer someone stays in treatment, the more likely they are to attain stable recovery and be reunified with their children.

  • Time in treatment – outcomes are best when individuals with a moderate to severe substance use disorder (SUD) remain engaged in treatment for a minimum of 90 days and remain engaged in community recovery supports for a year or longer (SUD is a chronic disease requiring on-going maintenance).
  • Retention and completion of treatment have been found to be the strongest predictors of reunification with children for parents with substance use disorders.  (Green, Rockhill, & Furrer, 2007; Marsh, Smith, & Bruni, 2010).

Family treatment court is more effective than “regular” deprived case processing at:

  • Getting people into treatment faster
  • Retaining people in treatment
  • Supporting completion of treatment
  • Reunifying families
  • Reducing children’s time out of home
  • Not having children return to care (re-occurrence of neglect or abuse)
    (Bruns, Pullmann, Weathers, Wirschem, & Murphy, 2012; Green, Furrer, Worcel, Burrus, & Finigan, 2007; Lloyd, 2015)

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Last Modified on Feb 26, 2021
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