Moving Toward System Wide Change

November 9, 2011
10:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m. (PST)
The Honorable Leonard P. Edwards, Ret.
Nancy K. Young, Ph.D.

Family drug courts (FDCs) have adapted the adult criminal drug court model, but with important variations in response to the different needs of families affected by substance use disorders. Key adjustments include an emphasis on immediate access to alcohol and drug services coupled with intensive judicial monitoring to support reunification of families affected by substance use disorders.

Although FDCs have rapidly increased in number and visibility across the country, few operate at a scale that addresses more than a small percentage of the total child welfare caseload in their jurisdictions. This session will review lessons gleaned from over 60 FDCs to highlight commonly occurring barriers to moving to scale. Discussion will center on challenges to replication and issues of fidelity to the original model. The pros and cons of operating FDCs at a smaller scale will be discussed, including the intensity of the model, cost and sustainability issues, the level of judicial interest in expansion, the challenges of screening effectively for substance abuse in the child welfare population, engagement and retention of voluntary clients, and the number of treatments slots required for parents in the child welfare system.

The primary learning objectives are:

•To review the available facts on the current scale of FDCs relative to the child welfare caseload and the need for drug and alcohol treatment among parents in the system
• To review the experience of FDCs that have moved toward larger scale operations, and focus on the major lessons of that experience
• To gain familiarity with the advantages and disadvantages of expanding the scale of FDCs to respond to a broader portion of the need for treatment services in support of family reunification