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Family Treatment Court is an alternative to regular Dependency Court for parents who need access to drug and alcohol treatment, judicial monitoring of their sobriety, and individualized services to support the family. It is a "drug court" for families involved in the child welfare system.

The Family Treatment Court (FTC) started in August 2004 with Judge Clark presiding. Family Treatment Court is an alternative to regular dependency court and is designed to improve the safety and well being of children in the dependency system by providing parents access to drug and alcohol treatment, judicial monitoring of their sobriety and individualized services to support the entire family.

Parents voluntarily enter the program and agree to increased court participation, chemical dependency treatment and intense case management in order to reunite with their children. Case review hearings initially occur every other week and then become less frequent as parents progress through the program.  Incentives are awarded to recognize parents' achievements, and graduated responses are used when parents violate program rules. It is expected that parents will remain in the FTC between 12 months and two years. If a parent is unable to engage in services or maintain sobriety, the process has prepared the court for quickly finding the best solution for the children.

Through a collaborative, non-adversarial approach, the Family Treatment Court integrates substance abuse treatment and increased accountability into the process. The court's first preference is always to help make families whole or to find children a stable environment with their own relatives. Each family has an FTC team that reviews parents' participation and recommends services. The team includes: parents' attorneys, assistant attorney general, DSHS social worker, substance abuse counselor, CASA and/or child's attorney, FTC treatment specialist, FTC program manager, and the judge. This interdisciplinary team is cross-trained and works collaboratively to resolve issues.

  • Integrated Systems: Parental substance abuse treatment in combination with enhanced judicial oversight and accountability are integrated within the traditional dependency case processes established under Chapter 13.34 RCW.
  • Intervene Early: Program eligibility determination, chemical dependency assessment and treatment program enrollment will be completed during shelter care when possible.
  • Comprehensive Services: Services follow a complete continuum of care and includes chemical dependency treatment (detoxification, residential and outpatient services), individual counseling, case management, therapeutic child care and other services based on the unique needs of each family.
  • Increased Judicial Supervision: Initially, case review hearings occur every other week and become less frequent as the parent progresses through the program.
  • A Holistic Approach to Strengthening Family Function: In addition to substance abuse treatment for the parents, parent and child-focused ancillary services will be accessible.
  • Individualized Case Planning: Case planning for parents, children and the family will be based on comprehensive assessments of each.
  • Ensuring Legal Rights, Advocacy and Confidentiality: All legal rights of parents and children are afforded pursuant to the dependency statutes under Chapter 13.34 RCW and records confidentiality laws pursuant to Chapter 13.50 RCW and related statutes.
  • Regularly Scheduled Staffings/Court Reviews: Prior to a review hearing, the Family Treatment Court team convene to review those cases appearing in court that day.
  • Graduated Sanctions and Incentives: Incentives are awarded to encourage and recognize a parent's progress through the program. Conversely, a system of graduated sanctions is used when parents violate program rules.
  • Measuring Program Outcomes: Program data will be collected for purposes of analyzing program efficiencies, outcomes and effectiveness.
  • A Collaborative, Non-Adversarial, Cross-Trained Team: Increased collaboration and communication is believed to lead to better teamwork and ultimately to better outcomes. The FTC team is committed to teamwork and participates in cross-discipline training, retreats and other events on a regular basis.
  • Judicial Leadership: Research indicates that the relationship with the Judge is a major influence in whether a person will remain connected to a program and ultimately become clean and sober.

To be considered for the program, parents must:

  • Be willing to admit to the court that his/her child is dependent; or have an existing dependency finding on his/her children;
  • Be chemically dependent and willing to go to treatment;
  • Be 18 years of age or older;
  • Be a resident of King County;
  • Be willing to sign a Consent to Release Confidential Information Form so that the team may share information with other team members and outside community providers;
  • Have the ability both mentally and physically to fully participate in the program;
  • Not be a perpetrator of sexual abuse or felony child abuse; and
  • Applications/referrals to FTC must be received no later than six months from the date on which the dependency petition was filed.

Parent's applications are reviewed in a 3-step process. In the first step, the parents meet with FTC staff to verify eligibility. If they are found eligible, they are referred immediately for a drug and alcohol evaluation (if they do not already have one).

Step two includes the completion of the drug and alcohol evaluation and the clinical assessment of eligibility. The treatment provider submits written verification that the parent or parents are chemically dependent and suitable for participation.

In the final step, the team meets to discuss overall eligibility and takes into consideration the dependency petition, chemical dependency assessment and all other available information. Based on the available information and from the team's input, the Family Treatment Court Judge makes the final decision about whether or not the parent or parents are eligible for the program.

If accepted, the parent will begin treatment and start coming to court every other week. The parent's file will be also be transferred to an FTC social worker.

Vision

To promote the health, safety and welfare of children in the dependency system by actively intervening to address the drug, alcohol and other service needs of families through integrated, culturally competent and judicially managed collaboration that facilitates timely reunification or an alternative permanency plan.

Goals of the Program

King County Family Treatment Court has four primary goals:

  • To ensure that children have safe and permanent homes within permanency planning guidelines or sooner;
  • To ensure that families of color have outcomes from dependency cases similar to families not of color;
  • To ensure that parents are better able to care for themselves and their children and seek resources to do so; and
  • To ensure that the cost to society of dependency cases involving substances is reduced.

Key Points

  • Participation in the Family Treatment Court (FTC) is completely voluntary.
  • FTC is an intensive program and requires great commitment. Parents will be required to go to treatment and attend court regularly.
  • The FTC team includes: the parent's attorney, Assistant Attorney General (AAG), DSHS social worker, substance abuse counselor, CASA and/or child's attorney, FTC treatment specialist, program manager, and the judge. Note: Even as a member of the Family Treatment Court team, the attorney still represents the parent and makes sure his/her legal rights are protected.
  • Many services are available and include substance abuse treatment, counseling, assistance with parenting, childcare issues, and Wrap-Around coordination.

The Family Treatment Court has capacity to serve 60 children at one time. Parental participation ranges from 12 to 24 months.

Between August 2004 and March 2016:

  • 305 parents and 424 children have been accepted into the Family Treatment Court program;
  • 93 have graduated; and
  • 82% are female (50% of females were also single head-of-households)

Upon entrance into the program:

  • 92% were unemployed;
  • 52% were without permanent residence;
  • 29% identified methamphetamine as their first drug of choice;
  • 16% identified cocaine as their first drug of choice;
  • 18% identified alcohol as their first drug of choice; and
  • 30% identified heroin or opiates (Rx) as their first drug of choice.

Of the children (as identified by their parents):

  • 62% are under the age of 4;
  • 31% identified as Caucasian;
  • 7% identified as Native American;
  • 15% identified as African American;
  • 3% identified as Hispanic;
  • 32% identified as Biracial; and
  • 12% identified as Multiracial.

As a Family Treatment Court participant, you are required to abide by the following rules:

  • Do not use or possess any drugs or alcohol. Sobriety is the primary focus of this program. Maintaining a drug free lifestyle is very important in your recovery process. Carefully choose the people with whom you associate.
  • Take prescription medications as prescribed by your doctor. If any medications show up as a positive urinalysis and you have not complied with the following conditions, you will be sanctioned.
  • If a physician prescribes medication for you:
  • You must first tell your treating doctor that you are participating in treatment and that you are required to abstain from mood-altering medications so that the doctor can make decisions with full knowledge of your situation.
  • You must contact your treatment provider and social worker immediately to let them know exactly what medications your treating doctor has prescribed.
  • You must not take more medication than your doctor ordered or get multiple prescriptions from different doctors.
  • Attend all ordered treatment. You may be ordered to do both inpatient and outpatient treatment. You must complete treatment as directed by the treatment center and the court. This includes individual and group counseling, educational sessions and sober-support meetings. If you leave treatment against the advice of the treatment center, additional treatment and/or sanctions may be imposed.
  • If you are unable to attend a scheduled session, you MUST contact your treatment counselor BEFORE a session is missed.
  • Report to your DCFS Social Worker as directed. If you have any problems making an appointment, contact your DCFS Social Worker immediately. This is especially important for requested urinalysis.
  • Be on time for visits and all treatment activities. Being late has consequences. Visitation providers will leave and not allow you to visit if you are more than 15 minutes late. On the 3rd late visit, the visitation provider will no longer provide visits and a new provider will need to be found. This could mean that you may miss the next few visits. If you are late for treatment, you may not be allowed to attend your counseling session and will be considered non-compliant. Contact your treatment counselor if there is a possibility you may be late.
  • Maintain appropriate behavior. Violent or inappropriate behavior will not be tolerated and will be reported to Court. This may result in termination from the Family Treatment Court Program.
  • Attend all court hearings and plan to stay until the end. If you must leave early, contact the Family Treatment Court Program Manager a day prior to court to allow enough time for the team to be notified.
  • Dress appropriately for Court and treatment sessions. Dress to make a positive impression. Clothing bearing drug or alcohol related themes or promoting or advertising alcohol or drug use or violence is considered inappropriate. Speak with your DCFS Social Worker if you need assistance with clothing.
  • Participate in Dependency Court Services.
  • Attend all visitations.
  • Be Honest. Honesty is essential to your recovery and to your success in the Family Treatment Court. This rule is intended to encourage and reward upfront honesty that supports sobriety and will be applied accordingly.

Remember, for most parents, successful completion of the Family Treatment Court program will take a minimum of one year. Most parents are expected to complete the program in 18 months.

In order to complete the program and graduate, you must have:

  • 6 months consecutive clean time.
  • Children returned and living at home for six months or in permanent placements.
  • Successful discharge from a substance abuse treatment program.
  • Consistent attendance at a sober support program or community based support program documented.
  • Housing arranged: Transitional living and/or drug free home.
  • Outstanding warrants resolved.
  • Support system established.
  • Relapse prevention program established.
  • Life plan initiated (e.g., employment, education, vocational training).
  • Dependency court services completed (ISSP plan completed).

process evaluation and an outcomes evaluation of the Family Treatment Court were completed by the University of Washington's Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Public Behavioral Health Sciences and Justice Policy Division. The University of Washington also compiled information regarding the cost-effectiveness of family drug courts.

The King County Superior Court's Family Treatment Court Program works in collaboration with the following organizations in order to meet the unique needs of children and families.

Washington State Department of Social and Health Services

King County Department of Community & Human Services

University of Washington

If you know a parent who is involved in the Child Dependency System and whose drug or alcohol problem is the primary factor affecting their ability to protect the health, safety and welfare of their children, Family Treatment Court may be an option.

For more information on Family Treatment Court, please contact the Program Office at 206-477-2311.

2017 FTC Calendar (Word doc)

Program Information

Orientation & Training

Participant Documents and Referral Lists

Case Planning Documents

Related Links