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Review of Specialized Family Drug Courts: Key Issues Handling Child Abuse and Neglect Cases

NCJ Number
Date Published
February 1999
45 pages
This report examines how family drug courts relate to general trends in child welfare reform, lessons from drug courts, increasing interest in therapeutic jurisprudence, and strategies and issues revealed in site visits to three courts in Manhattan and Suffolk County in New York, and Escambia County, in Florida
These courts are designed to help abused and neglected children by addressing parental drug abuse within the context of family court child-protection cases. They handle cases involving parental rights in which an adult is the litigant, and cases that come through either a criminal or civil process. They also handle cases that arise out of the parent's drug abuse and deal with custody and visitation disputes; abuse, neglect, and dependency matters; petitions to terminate parental rights; guardianship proceedings; or others laws, restrictions, or limitations of parental rights. Ten family drug courts are now operating; 10 more are in the planning stage. The emergence of these courts results partly from a convergence of judicial, statutory, and social service pressures. Implementation issues for all three sites visited for this report included when and how to maintain client confidentiality, the imposition of sanctions for noncompliance, and demands on resources. The judges, project staff, and staff of collaborating agencies at the three sites also reported that these courts are labor-intensive, planners need a clear picture of the individuals and their needs, early intervention is important, interagency collaboration is essential and difficult, and case plans need to think out the transition from one service provider to another as the case progresses. The sites also recommended more services to the children, transitional and aftercare services for parents, and services for victims of domestic assault. Further research is also needed on several topics. Footnote and 39 references

Date Published: February 1, 1999