This report reviews the rationale for and the features, evaluations, and evidence-based programs of family drug courts (FDCs).
FDCs are specialized courts within the justice system that process cases of child abuse and neglect that involve substance use by the child's parent or guardians. FDCs were developed by communities in the mid-1990s as a response to the estimated high percentage (60-80 percent) of substantiated child abuse and neglect cases that involved substance use by a parent or guardian. Part of the rationale for FDCs is the Adoption and Safe Families Act (ASFA) of 1997, which was enacted in an effort to decrease the amount of time children spend in non-permanent settings. ASFA regulations require permanency hearings to occur within 12 months of a child being placed in foster care, making parents with substance-use disorders particularly vulnerable to losing their parental rights. FDCs assess parents' needs, provide access to treatment, attempt to remove barriers that may impact successful completion of treatment, and conduct ongoing monitoring of parental compliance. FDCs also help parents to become emotionally and financially self-sufficient and provide them with tools to become responsible parents. Despite the limited number of evaluation studies of FDCs, there are a number of evidence-based FDC programs. The three described in this report are the Jackson County Community Family Court (Oregon), the Baltimore City Family Recovery Program (Maryland), and the Engaging Moms Program (Miami, Florida). As of 2013, there were just over 300 FDCs operating across the country. 32 references