Checklist to Change


January 22, 2019 

Families involved in the child welfare system and affected by parental substance use disorders face a difficult and arduous journey towards achieving their recovery and reunification goals within the time limits set forth by ASFA. Family Treatment Courts (FTCs) provide a pathway for achieving positive outcomes through interagency collaboration, coordinated and comprehensive service delivery, and enhanced accountability.  The phasing system of the FTC model, in particular, provides participants and the team visible steps for measuring progress and success. Many FTCs have moved beyond the traditional pre-set phasing structure focused on compliance and completing a checklist of requirements to one that accounts for parents’ strengths, readiness, and desired behavioral change.   While many FTCs have restructured their phasing system with some referring to it as Milestones, other FTC programs have integrated behavioral benchmarks into their current phasing structure. 

This Café Conversation explores the innovative, yet meaningful approach FTCs have adopted to better assess and prepare families for successful recovery and reunification.  Viewers are encouraged to have conversations with their team and partner agencies to define what “success” means for participant families, identify what families need to be successful, and how they will maintain strong relationships to ensure a flow of communication. 


  • Tessa Richter, Senior Program Associate, Children and Family Futures
  • Kelli Sutton, Court Coordinator, Jefferson County Family Integrated Treatment Court (CO)
  • Julie Spielman, Administrator, Dunklin County Family Treatment Court (MO) 

Learning Objectives: 

1. Explore the need to rethink your current FTC phasing structure and definition of “success” for partner agencies and participant families  

2. Highlight specific innovative strategies to align the FTC case with the child welfare case and dependency court docket  

3. Learn from FTCs that have adopted a “Milestone Approach” and behavioral benchmarks to better assess families’ progress towards recovery and reunification 

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Through federally- and foundation-funded projects, Children and Family Futures and its small business subsidiary, Center for Children and Family Futures, produces publications, reports, Technical Assistance tools and web-based learning for the field. The following are featured resources from our work. For more resources or information related to a specific topic, please visit our resources page or click the “Request Assistance” button below or at the top of the page.