Evaluation of the Erie County Family Treatment Court
Cannavo, Joanne M.
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Family Treatment Courts (FTC) are programs that were created to deal with parents who have a substance abuse problem and are involved with the child welfare system due to having an indicated neglect case. In recent years, there have been increasing numbers of children coming into the child welfare system because of the consequences of parental substance-related or mental health problems that place children at risk because of the limitations this places on the parents' ability to care for or protect their children. This study examined the potential impact of several variables on enrollment in the court, completion of the program, and subsequent recidivism for a sample of individuals (n = 186) who were referred to a Family Treatment Court because of a substantiated case of neglect. Demographics, parenting, substance use and problems, mental health, motivation and the degree of judicial monitoring (sanctions and rewards) were evaluated for their influence on the outcomes of interest. Ten of the 16 measures evaluated in this study showed relationships with at least one outcome. Key predictors of enrollment were employment, parent-child activities, and recognition that parenting was affected by substance use. For completion, frequency of drug use, drug problems, and three measures of judicial monitoring were significant. Finally, in addition to completion of the FTC program, ethnicity, age, and parent-child interactions were associated with subsequent neglect or abuse petitions. The results suggest that motivation to change substance use behavior and/or regain custody of children is a key factor for enrollment. In regards to completion, judicial monitoring appeared to be most predictive, with even minimal rewards having a significant benefit for participants. Recidivism was associated with program failure, a potential indicator of problem severity, as well as the bonds between parents and children. Future research should consider the impact of sobriety on the parent child bond and evaluate how this bond may be affected during supervised visitation. Results are very promising despite the small sample and lack of true comparison groups.