A grant from The Duke Endowment supported the Prevention and Family Recovery initiative in Lumberton. The Doris Duke Charitable Foundation in New York funded the effort in Tucson, San Francisco and Ithaca, N.Y. A nonprofit in California, Children and Family Futures, provided consultation and technical assistance.“
This project has given us an opportunity to widen our focus from the parent in treatment, to the needs of the whole family,” says Carmical, who has served as judge of the Robeson County Family Drug Treatment Court since its inception. “We’re improving what we’re already doing for parents and becoming better equipped to help their children.”
Building on Strengths
On a recent Friday, 30 names fill the docket. Before the morning session begins, teams of social workers, substance abuse treatment providers and court staff discuss each case.
One woman failed her drug screen. Another is tethered to an abusive boyfriend. “Deborah,” on the other hand, attends parenting classes and loves her new job.
Lumberton’s family treatment court targets parents who are addicted to illicit drugs or alcohol and are in danger of losing custody of their child due to neglect or abuse. Most participants are women with children under 7.
“With the disarray in their parents’ lives, these kids have been exposed to harsh consequences,” says Valerie Vann-Comrie, family treatment court program director. “Home lives can be chaotic. Maybe they aren’t being taken to school. Strangers might be coming into the house. The risk level for intergenerational challenges is through the roof.”
The road to reunification isn’t easy. Parents must engage in treatment, submit to random drug testing, attend two support meetings a week, and come to court twice a month. After 120 days of “clean time,” they’re required to find a job or enroll in school. Before they can graduate from the program, they need to have found stable housing.
Most remain in the program for more than 12 months.
By partnering with the county Department of Social Services, the Guardian Ad Litem program, and the Robeson Healthcare Corp., the Robeson County Family Treatment Court was already providing strong recovery support. The Prevention and Family Recovery initiative was designed to help families further.
‘Generations to Come’
The four sites were selected in March 2014. Kick-off training followed in May, along with in-person meetings in 2015 and 2016. Teams from Children and Family Futures helped the courts identify and incorporate promising programs, and build staff capacity. “Change leaders” at each site provided ongoing support; a national advisory council guided the overall work. As the two-year initiative winds down this spring, they’ll share lessons learned.
“In the end, we envision that the grantees will become flagship collaborative courts that provide leadership and support for comprehensive, integrated family-centered care and advance breakthrough strategies to improve family functioning and well-being,” says Children and Family Futures Director Nancy Young.