The Baltimore City Family Recovery Program (FRP) is a family drug court designed to serve families involved with child welfare due to parental substance use. The program provides comprehensive case management and immediate, intensive substance abuse services for parents involved in Children in Need of Assistance (CINA) proceedings. The program serves parents with substance abuse issues that led to the placement of their children in foster care after removal from the home. The goal of FRP is to encourage sobriety and improve quality of life for parents in order to increase the likelihood of reunification for families and decrease the length of stay in foster care for children.
To be eligible to participate in FRP, parents must have a substance use–related child welfare allegation (such as Drug Exposed Newborn, Neglect Due to Drug Use, etc.). Participants must be the parent or legal guardian of a child 5 years old or younger who has been placed in shelter care for at least one night and has never been named on a CINA petition.
Parents may voluntarily request to be referred into the FRP at the following CINA court hearings: shelter care hearings, preliminary hearings, CINA adjudicatory hearings, CINA dispositional hearings, and FRP court hearings. Participants may be referred to the FRP for a new term after a previous discharge if they have a new or different child and meet eligibility requirements.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) estimated that more than 900,000 children were victims of parental neglect or abuse between 2003 and 2004 (HHS, 2004). In addition, it is estimated that parent substance abuse is a significant contributor to child maltreatment in the majority of all child welfare cases (National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse, 1999). One of the fastest growing program models designed to address the challenges of serving these families is the family treatment drug court (also known as dependency drug court or family treatment court). Family treatment drug courts require a collaboration between court, treatment, and child welfare practitioners, who work together to create practical case plans for parents that will allow them to achieve sobriety, provide a safe home, and become responsible enough to take care of themselves and their children to keep the family together.
Family treatment drug courts are modeled on adult drug courts and include regular court hearings, intensive judicial monitoring, the provision of substance abuse treatment, and other wraparound services. However, family treatment drug courts differ from adult drug courts in several ways. First, most adult drug court participants are male, whereas most of those served by family treatment drug courts are female. In addition, parents in family drug treatment courts are involved in services due to non-criminal issues related to child maltreatment and criminal sanctions are generally not employed, while participation in adult drug court is typically offered in lieu of jail time. The primary motivation for participating in family drug treatment court is reunification, while adult drug court participants try to avoid incarceration. Finally, family drug treatment court addresses multiple, complex family problems that are not typically addressed in adult drug court. In addition to substance abuse treatment, parents must address other issues, such as employment, housing, and parent practices, to be reunified with their children. Thus, successful treatment completion does not guarantee ultimate success in a family drug treatment court.
The FRP is administered through the Maryland Juvenile Court. FRP participants are enrolled in the program for 1 year, beginning on the date of the original court referral. FRP court hearings are generally held every Friday. Parents are required to undergo random and scheduled drug testing throughout the program term. Because parents are required to maintain safe, substance-free environments for their children, the court can also require drug tests of other individuals in the household to assess compliance.
The program provides parents with immediate access to the substance abuse treatment they need within 24 hours of assessment. Treatment can include individual and group counseling, relapse prevention, self-help groups, preventative and primary medical care, general health and nutrition education, parenting skills, and domestic violence education. The FRP also offers parents other support services, such as mental health care, transportation, housing assistance, and case management support. Services are tailored to meet the needs of parents who are in crisis and require intensive, ongoing treatment and services.
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Burrus, Mackin, and Aborn (2008) found that within the 16-month study window, there was no statistical difference between the number of Family Recovery Program (FRP) cases and non-FRP cases that reached permanency. Thirty-five percent of FRP cases, compared to 38 percent of non-FRP cases reached permanency. For cases that did reach permanency, the non-FRP cases reached permanent placement faster (249 days on average) than the FRP cases (325 days on average). This difference was statistically significant.
Frequency of Permanency Decisions FRP cases resulted in significantly more reunifications and significantly fewer placements in longer-term foster care compared to non-FRP cases. Seventy percent of FRP cases resulted in reunification, compared to 45 percent of non-FRP cases. Approximately half as many FRP cases (16 percent) resulted in placements in long-term foster care, compared to non-FRP cases (32 percent).
Kinship Foster Care
There was no statistical significance between FRP and non-FRP cases in the number of days children spent in non-kinship foster care. Children in non-FRP cases spent 414 days in kinship substitute care, compared to the 381 days children in FRP cases spent in kinship substitute care.
Non-Kinship Foster Care
Children whose parents attended FRP spent significantly less time in non-kinship foster care than children whose parents did not participate. On average, FRP children spent 252 days in non-kinship foster care, compared to 346 days for non-FRP children.
Time to Treatment Entry
FRP parents entered treatment more rapidly than non-FRP parents after the date of petition for Children in Need of Assistance (CINA). On average, FRP parents entered their first treatment episode 57 days after the date of petition for CINA, compared to 88 days after the date of petition for non-FRP parents. This difference was statistically significant.
Treatment Length of Stay
FRP parents also stayed in treatment longer than non-FRP parents. On average, the length of stay in outpatient treatment for FRP parents during the first 12 months of the CINA case was 138 days, compared to an average of 82 days for non-FRP parents during the same time frame. This difference was statistically significant.
Finally, FRP parents completed treatment more often than non-FRP parents. Sixty-four percent of FRP parents completed treatment, compared to 36 percent of non-FRP parents (a statistically significant difference).