Specialty Courts

Family Drug Court

Family Drug Court Overview

The mission of the Family Drug Court is through a collaborative effort, to ensure a child has a safe and nurturing environment by focusing on healthy and sober parenting and permanency planning through family reunification. The Family Drug Court Team features collaboration between the Court, Social Services, substance abuse treatment providers, and community support agencies, including the Foster Grandparent Program.

The 2nd Judicial District has operated the Family Drug Court since 1994, utilizing two tracks, with participants appearing twice a month before the Judge. The Family Drug Court requires an active aftercare plan to encourage ongoing compliance with treatment to maintain sobriety, ensure reunification, and avoid further involvement in the child welfare or family court system.

The Family Drug Court's target population is substance-abusing parents charged with abuse and/or neglect of their minor children, and their minor children. Participants in the Family Drug Court are almost always clients of public systems of care and assistance. By definition, 100% are involved with the child welfare and the criminal justice systems.

There are several obstacles that hinder the effectiveness of the Family Drug Court. One is the current stream of extremely complex cases as clients rarely present with a "pure" substance abuse problem. Increasingly, our Court has experienced a large number of clients with a high incidence of co-occurring disorders and a mental health system that is under-funded and very difficult to access. If the mental illness is left untreated or "undertreated", it often jeopardizes the substance abuse treatment and the goal of reunification.

Another aspect of the co-occurring disorder obstacle is the very high incidence of women in the Drug Court who were sexually abused as children, and are now experiencing clinical depression as a result. Many times this childhood trauma has not ever been addressed, but surfaces during the substance abuse treatment program. Self-medication with drugs and/or alcohol is a common response to childhood trauma.

The 2nd Judicial District Court contracts with two treatment providers, Bristlecone Family Resources and Step 2/Lighthouse of the Sierra, to provide testing, treatment, and case management for Family Drug Court clients. The Family Drug Court uses a Team approach involving the judge, defense and prosecution counsel, treatment personnel, court personnel, and integrated services coordination through a unique partnership with the Foster Grandparent program. After care/continuing care is part of the program, as are educational and vocational services.