Report Shows Family Recovery Courts to be Effective, Cost-Efficient
(Annapolis, MD — May 30, 2008) Parents who took part in a special Maryland family drug treatment court program were much more likely to complete substance abuse treatment and become reunited with their children. Their children, as well, spent less time in foster care than those whose parents did not take part in the program. These are the findings of an intensive study of the Harford County family recovery court. The report was released this month by an independent research firm.
The Harford County family recovery court (FRC) serves families involved with child welfare due to substance abuse. “Through this program, we hope to bring sobriety and quality of life to parents and, in turn, increase the likelihood of bringing families back together,” said Harford County Circuit Judge William O. Carr. To be eligible for the program, participating parents must be named in a Child in Need of Assistance (CINA) petition and be determined, through an assessment, to have a substance abuse issue.
The program also saves taxpayers money, the report concludes. Because family recovery court families used less foster care and were more likely to achieve reunification, these cases were less costly to the child welfare system than other CINA cases. Moreover, family recovery court parents spent less time in jail; therefore, the total cost savings per year of Harford County family recovery court operations was nearly $317,000, or approximately $12,000 per served family.
“The report confirms what we have seen in practice – family recovery courts produce better results than the traditional court approach in terms of keeping families together, and it’s also a cost-effective way to address the problem of substance abuse,” said Master Theodore M. Hart.
NPC Research, based in Portland, Ore., conducted the study. Details of the findings include the following:
- On average, during the CINA case, non-FRC children were in foster care more than three times as long as FRC children: children in families served by the FRC spent 136 days in foster care compared to 443 days for children in non-FRC served families;
- FRC families were twice as likely to be reunited than non-FRC families: 60 percent of FRC families achieved reunification while 30 percent of non-FRC families achieved reunification;
- FRC parents were almost three times as likely to complete treatment than non-FRC parents: 85 percent of FRC parents completed treatment compared to just 29 percent of non-FRC parents;
- While there was no difference in the percentage of parents arrested on drug charges after the start of their CINA cases, of those parents who were arrested, FRC parents were arrested on average 1.5 times, whereas non-FRC parents were arrested on average 3.6 times; and
- Of those parents who were arrested, FRC parents spent an average 26 days in jail, and non-FRC parents spent an average of 120 days in jail.
“We have a consistent team and a strong tradition of interagency cooperation. I am gratified to hear hard evidence that this program makes a difference in the lives of these families,” Judge Carr said.
Family recovery courts, like other drug treatment courts in the state, provide intensive treatment, supervision, and comprehensive judicial monitoring. Judge Carr oversees the Harford County team that includes the county’s Department of Social Services, the public defender’s office, local Legal Aid Bureau, treatment providers, and court personnel. Participants appear in court and their progress is evaluated throughout the rigorous nine-month program.
There are currently 39 drug courts in Maryland and more are planned. Harford County and Baltimore City have the state’s two family recovery courts.
The text of the Harford County family recovery court study is available online at mdcourts.gov/opsc/dtc/pdfs/harford_county_frc_0308.pdf
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