Academic journal article Child Welfare

New Approaches for Working with Children and Families Involved in Family Treatment Drug Courts: Findings from the Children Affected by Methamphetamine Program

Academic journal article Child Welfare

New Approaches for Working with Children and Families Involved in Family Treatment Drug Courts: Findings from the Children Affected by Methamphetamine Program

Article excerpt

More than 8.3 million children in the United States under the age of 18 live with a parent who is dependent on alcohol or needs treatment for a substance use disorder, representing 11.9% of children nationwide. For children younger than 6 years of age, this proportion increases to 14% (Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration, Office of Applied Studies, 2009). Within child welfare, parents with substance abuse problems are least likely to successfully reunify with their children, and their children often stay in the foster care system longer (Gregoire & Schultz, 2001).

Family Treatment Drug Courts (F TDCs) are an increasingly important strategy for addressing the needs of families involved with child welfare and impacted by substance use. F TDCs have grown exponentially in the past two decades from only two programs in 1995 to approximately 350 F TDCs in 2015 (National Association of Drug Court Professionals, 2015). F TDCs provide structured support for the parent through expanded judicial oversight in conjunction with intensive intervention and treatment for parents' substance abuse and other comorbidity issues (Wheeler & Fox, 2006). Overseen by specially trained and dedicated judicial teams, F TDCs have the flexibility to administer a timely and intensive array of responses to the parents' behavior and to improve their engagement in treatment and recovery support. Federally published guidelines suggest that FTDCs should bring together substance abuse, mental health, social service, and other family-serving agencies to meet the needs of parents and their children (Young, Breitenbucher, & Pfeifer, 2013).

FTDCs have been shown to produce positive outcomes, including: (1) significantly higher rates of parental participation in substance abuse treatment; (2) longer stays in treatment; (3) higher rates of family reunifications; (4) less time spent in foster care for children; and (5) less recurrence of maltreatment (Boles, Young, Moore, & DiPierro-Beard, 2007; Green, Rockhill, & Furrer, 2007; Worcel, Green, Furrer, Burrus, & Finigan, 2007; Worcel, Furrer, Green, Burrus, & Finigan, 2008). Some studies also suggest that F TDC participation in some jurisdictions may be associated with longer stays in out-of-home care ( Worcel, Furrer, Green, Burrus, & Finnigan, 2008) or higher rates of reentry into care (Boles, Young, Moore, & DiPirro-Beard, 2007). Though these same studies note that these effects do not persist, or may reverse, when findings are aggregated across the study sites.

Historically, most F TDCs and their partner agencies focused primarily on parental recovery from substance abuse and on family reunification. Elsewhere in child welfare, however, efforts focusing additional services on children demonstrate improved outcomes for parents and children, better family bonding and attachment, as well as improved school outcomes (Lieberman, Ghosh Ippen, & Van Horn, 2006; National Scientific Council on the Developing Child, 2007). Furthermore, in a 2010 needs assessment, Children and Family Futures (CFF) found that "services to children" was one of the most urgent technical assistance needs of FTDCs. Just over half (55.8%) of surveyed F TDCs indicated that they provided family-centered treatment or family-based services, and just 51.2% indicated that they provide children's services (Young, Breitenbucher, Lemus, & Boles, 2010).

In 2010, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Ser vices Administration (SAMHSA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services initiated the Grants to Expand Services to Children Affected by Methamphetamine in Families Participating in Family Treatment Drug Court (Short title: Children Affected by Methamphetamine [CAM] program.) The CAM program was designed to pilot the expansion of services to the children and the parent-child dyad of families participating in F TDCs and improve the field's knowledge base about strategies to improve family outcomes. …

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