November | December 2018

Stakeholder Corner: Guam’s New Family Drug Court Supports Parents in Recovery and the Reunification of Families

Photo of the Guam Family Recovery Program team The Guam Family Recovery Program team (shown above) consists of attorneys, therapeutic services providers, and staff of the Judiciary of Guam and Child Protective Services.

Photo courtesy of Guam Family Recovery Program.

By Guam Family Recovery Program Team, Judiciary of Guam

On November 15, 2017, the Judiciary of Guam launched the island’s first family drug treatment court, known as the Guam Family Recovery Program (GFRP). Before GFRP was established, there were no court programs that specifically addressed the needs of families affected by substance abuse. Through a cooperative agreement with OJJDP, the Judiciary of Guam obtained funding to address parental substance abuse that threatens the safety and permanency of children.

GFRP’s mission is to improve the health, safety, and welfare of children and to support parents in their recovery from substance abuse through increased judicial oversight and improved access to individualized treatment services. Our program seeks to strengthen families by providing collaborative, culturally respectful, family-centered treatment and services. Our goal is to address parental substance abuse and recovery for successful family reunification.

Through funding from the cooperative agreement and guidance from the technical assistance provider, the Center for Children and Family Futures, we were able to secure residential treatment for the parents. GFRP team members had the opportunity to attend the National Association of Drug Court Professionals annual conference in Washington, DC, and Houston, TX, and to visit existing family drug treatment courts.

Since GFRP launched, referrals received by the team have increased steadily, and we anticipate continuous growth in the coming years. Currently, there are 10 parents and their families, including 32 children, who have received assistance and support.

When the Judiciary of Guam committed to establishing GFRP, we met this challenge with an expectation that it could positively change how our justice system stems the tide of addiction. Since our first staffing and review hearing, we’ve been impressed that each stakeholder has been engaged, collaborative, and shared the same expectation.

With a culture rooted in family, GFRP continues to use this premise as the core of our work, and it has yielded great results. In the first 13 months of the program, and with close supervision from our GFRP team, we have witnessed a significant transformation in the parents’ behavior. Parents are holding themselves accountable and are committed to working toward the goal of sobriety and reunification with their children. We are well aware that there are bumps in the road toward recovery; however, the collaborative stakeholders that make up the team continue to provide great input that further strengthens our GFRP.

Our parents’ stories have often brought tears to our eyes, sometimes for the hard reality of relapse, and others for the successes achieved in living a substance-free life. Recently, GFRP held a surprise baby shower for a parent in the program in celebration of maintaining her sobriety. All GFRP parents voluntarily participated by bringing food, gifts, and assisting with decorating. The first GFRP substance-free baby was born on September 12, 2018.

GFRP is just starting this great journey to change the perspective of the community on addiction and recovery involving children and families. Like all new programs, GFRP has experienced its share of growing pains. Many of the initiatives we introduced and implemented were foreign to us and our partners; however, with the shared goal of reunifying families, we have continued to move forward, and our first parents graduated from the program in November 2018. We expect more challenges moving forward, but are confident that the GFRP model works.