When parents fall into substance use addiction, children often become involved with child welfare services. In fact, 58.7% of all dependency cases involved substance use, impacting approximately 11,444 children. In order to create better outcomes for LA County families, today the Board of Supervisors approved a motion authored by Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda L. Solis, and co-authored by Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, that creates a plan for the establishment of a Family Treatment Court to address substance use when it is a related reason for child welfare involvement.
“In recent years, the LA County Board of Supervisors has taken bold, innovative, and collaborative approaches to prevent child abuse and neglect and strengthen reunification efforts for children under the County’s care,” said Supervisor Solis. “With this motion, LA County is moving further away from old and punitive models as a response to parental substance use, and toward holistic models that emphasize treatment, health, and wellness to improve outcomes and family and community stability. The overlapping issues of substance use and child welfare involvement disproportionately impact low-income families and families of color, and we are committing today to implement modern strategies to support these parents and their children.”
“Across the country, studies show that addiction in families is driving more and more children into foster care,” said Supervisor Kuehl. “Some jurisdictions have begun ‘Family Treatment Courts’ that help parents access treatment so that their children may remain safely in their parent’s homes. This motion will explore whether that type of court would be a good option for LA County.”
Across the country, local jurisdictions have created dependency drug courts, commonly referred to as Family Treatment Courts, to address substance use when it is an underlying or related reason for child welfare involvement. Family Treatment Courts use a multidisciplinary, non-adversarial approach to serve families in the child welfare system who seek substance use treatment. These programs bring together child welfare partners, substance use treatment agencies, service providers, and the courts to serve the whole family. Together, they support parents in recovery to promote family success, including keeping families together whenever possible, and ensuring successful reunification efforts when removal is necessary. In Family Treatment Court, the court and service providers play a critical role to ensure necessary services for substance use treatment are provided to parents in a timely manner, including immediate assessment of the parent’s substance use and increased access to intensive levels of treatment with holistic, team-based case planning, and case management.
Outcomes of the Family Treatment Court model are promising. An evaluation of Sacramento County’s model dependency drug court showed that participants had higher rates of drug treatment participation than the control group, and children were reunified 42% of the time at 24 months, versus 27.2% of the time for families who did not participate. The National Strategic Plan for Family Drug Courts, Children, and Family Futures cites several evaluations that show positive gains for families who participate in such programs, including longer stays and increased completion rates in treatment, a greater number of children remaining in their home, higher rates of family reunification, and fewer recurrences of child maltreatment and re-entries into foster care. Overall, Family Treatment Courts improve rehabilitation for parents and provides greater stability for children.
Today’s motion directs the LA County Department of Children and Family Services, the County Department of Public Health, and other County departments to work in consultation with stakeholders and the Dependency Court to report back with a countywide plan to create an LA County Family Treatment Court model based on best practices. The report back will also include the identification of potential service providers and case management agencies to streamline and enhance existing substance use treatment services.