Program Goals/Target Population
The CFC is a family drug court (FDC), a type of problem-solving court that encompasses essential components of the adult drug court model. The program is implemented using the “Ten Key Components of Drug Courts,” established by the National Association of Drug Court Professionals (1997). The components of FDCs include regular (usually weekly) court hearings, intensive judicial supervision, timely referral to a substance abuse treatment program, frequent drug testing, rewards and sanctions linked to program compliance, and wraparound services. FDC teams always include the child welfare system along with the judicial and treatment systems.
Most importantly, while drug courts typically serve as alternatives to incarceration for adults involved in the criminal justice system, participants in FDCs may not necessarily be criminally involved. Rather, FDC participants have become involved in the program because of civil family court matters. FDC programs have the difficult task of balancing the best interests of the children with the needs and treatment goals of the parents.
Substance abusing parents can be referred to CFC by public defenders, the district attorney, judges, a mental health agency, DHS child welfare caseworkers, treatment providers, and other participating agencies. There is no standardized assessment used to determine eligibility of potential program participants. Eligibility is determined on a case-by-case basis by the CFC team. Information from DHS and other agencies is considered, as well as suitability of the offender (such as attitude and readiness for treatment).
Parents that do not admit to having a drug problem and offenders with felony charges are excluded from participating in the program, but parents with non–drug related charges and domestic violence charges are eligible to participate. The program also accepts those with child welfare allegations against them, including neglect, failure to protect, threat of harm, physical abuse, mental injury, abandonment, and prior termination of parental rights. Once a parent is found to be eligible, a full substance abuse treatment assessment is performed to determine level of care. Participants are also screened for co-occurring mental disorders and suicidal ideation.
The program is designed to last a minimum of 12 months, from entry into the program until graduation. The CFC program consists of three phases. As participants demonstrate compliance with program requirements, they progress to the next phase of treatment. The phases differ on length, treatment requirements, and submission of drug tests. For example, the minimum length of the first phase is 4 to 6 weeks. Program participants are required to submit to drug tests 3 times per week, attend group treatment 4 or more times per week, and attend drug court sessions once per week. Participants are also required to attend self-help groups or 12-step meetings, and attend individual treatment sessions at least once per month. By the final phase of treatment, there is no minimum length of treatment. Participants are required to submit to drug tests at least once per month and usually several times during the final month prior to graduating. Participants attend group treatment once per month, and there are no specific requirements for individual treatment attendance. Participants are still required to attend self-help groups or 12-step meetings.
All CFC participants are required to attend outpatient individual treatment sessions, outpatient group treatment sessions, self-help meetings, and parenting classes. Participants are expected to work toward specific goals, such as job training (if they’re unemployed), securing safe and stable housing, accessing transportation, and identifying community service resources. Some participants may also be required to attend mental health counseling, residential treatment, psychiatric services, prenatal/perinatal programs, a DHS–required batterers intervention program, employment assistance, family relations counseling, and General Educational Development (or GED)/education assistance. Additional services that are provided include detoxification, gender-specific treatment, language- or cultural-specific programming, health care, and dental care.
Child care is provided by one of the treatment providers and available for participants’ children when participants have a drug court date. The facility is located across the street from the courthouse. Child care is also available several afternoons a week for participants that attend treatment with that service provider.
Sanctions may be used when a participant is not in compliance with program requirements. Sanctions are graduated so that the severity increases with more frequent or more serious noncompliance, and they are generally imposed on a case-by-case basis. Examples of sanctions that are used in CFC include writing essays, community service, residential treatment, more drug tests, more court appearances, jail, and increased treatment sessions. Participants may also be rewarded for demonstrating compliant behavior. Tangible rewards include store gift cards and coffee bucks, while intangible rewards include applause in the courtroom, certificates for moving to the next phase, and increased visitation with children.
To graduate from CFC, participants must comply with their child welfare case plan, have a job or be in school, secure a sober housing environment, pay all court drug fees, complete community services, and have a written sobriety plan. CFC also offers an aftercare program for graduates (a Mentor Mom Program), and an alumni group that meets regularly to provide support to current participants.
Graduation from CFC does not guarantee that a parent will be reunited with their children. However, the successful completion of the program is brought into consideration when the court makes any decisions about families.
The CFC team includes three judges, the program coordinator, the prosecutor, defense attorneys, treatment providers, DHS child protection representatives, case managers, a domestic violence advocate, a representative from the
The CFC coordinator facilitates weekly meetings, which include the three court judges, CASAs, treatment providers, and DHS child welfare caseworkers. They discuss the participant’s progress through the program, including achievements and obstacles. The team generally arrives at an agreed-upon recommendation for each participant. The judges usually follow the recommendation, although they have the authority to make the final decision. Unlike adult drug courts, during the meetings, the interests of children of parents participating in the program are represented by DHS caseworkers and CASAs. They attend meetings to evaluate if a particular case with a high-risk family situation may require a CASA in order to advocate for children and ensure their needs are met.
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Carey and colleagues (2010) found that significantly more parents in
The results also showed that CFC parents spent nearly twice as long in treatment than parents who did not participate in the program. CFC parents spent an average of 112 days in outpatient treatment, compared to an average of 67 days in treatment for non–CFC parents. CFC graduates spent even longer time in outpatient treatment (an average of 126 days). CFC parents also spent more time in residential treatment (an average of 35 days, compared to 13 days on average for non–CFC parents).
Finally, parents in CFC completed treatment more often than non–CFC parents. Over a 2-year period following entry into the program, 73 percent of CFC parents had completed treatment, compared to 44 percent of the comparison group. Parents who successfully graduated from CFC had the highest treatment completion rate (87 percent).
Child Welfare Outcomes
The children of parents who participated in CFC spent significantly less time in foster care in the 4 years after entering the program then children of non–CFC parents. The children of CFC parents spent an average of 645 days in foster care, compared to an average of 655 days for children of non–CFC parents.
Children of CFC parents were also returned significantly sooner than children of parents in the comparison group. Among those children who were in foster care at the time that their parents entered the program, children with CFC parents were in care an average of 264 days per child, compared to an average of 367 days per child for children of non-–CFC parents.
Finally, children of CFC parents were also significantly more likely to be reunited with their parents and experienced significantly fewer adoptions and termination of parent rights. With 4 years of parents entering the program, 51 percent of CFC parents were reunited with their children, compared to 45 percent of non–CFC parents. Although this result was significant, the actual difference between the two groups was not large. Twenty percent of non–CFC parents had their parental rights terminated, compared to 13 percent of CFC parents, and 16 percent of non–CFC parents had children adopted compared to 10 percent of CFC parents. Again, these differences were significant, but not large.
However, not all child welfare outcomes were positive. There were no significant differences in placement stability (which refers to how often children move from one foster care placement to another). Children of CFC parents had no fewer placement changes than children of non–CFC parents. Both groups had an average of 1.2 placement changes per child while in foster care in the 2 years after program entry. In addition, children of CFC parents actually had significantly more new foster care episodes, compared to children of non–CFC parents. The children of CFC parents had 0.69 new episodes in the 2 years after program entry, compared to 0.33 episodes from children of non–CFC parents during this time. This may be due to the fact that CFC parents have more contact with the court system during the program, and closer scrutiny could lead to more removals.
Criminal Justice Outcomes
Parents who participated in CFC were significantly less often rearrested over the 4 years from program entry, compared to non–CFC parents. In the 1st year following entry to the program, 10 percent of CFC graduates and 25 percent of all CFC participants were rearrested, compared to 30 percent of non–CFC parents. By the fourth year, 20 percent of CFC graduates and 40 percent of all CFC participants were rearrested, compared to 63 percent of non–CFC parents. CFC parents also had significantly fewer rearrests for felony, misdemeanor, and drug charges. CFC parents were rearrested nearly half as often for any charge (felony or misdemeanor) and had 33 percent fewer rearrests with drug charges over 4 years.