Program Goals/Target Population
The Snohomish County Family Drug Treatment Court (SCFDTC) is a family drug treatment court program for parents who have substance abuse allegations and are involved in the child welfare system. SCFDTC serves as an alternative dependency intervention by targeting substance-using parents in need of comprehensive treatment and parenting support. The goals of this program are to improve permanency planning for families, reduce the amount of time children spend in the child welfare system, and increase treatment completion of parents.
SCFDTC is available to parents who reside in Snohomish County, Washington, and who have allegations of child maltreatment resulting from their substance use. Eligible participant information is presented to the drug court team at staffing, and the team approves admissions to the program. SCFDTC uses an extensive referral and screening process, and once accepted, parents must complete multiple services and programs before they can be considered for graduation. The program can accommodate 30 participants at any given time.
While in the program, to maintain eligibility, participants must meet the following expectations: 1) have a completed medication form for any and all prescription medicines; 2) must not use any non-prescribed mood or mind-altering substances or medications (including alcohol); 3) be ready to take a urinalysis test at any time; 4) attend court as scheduled, attend treatment each week as scheduled, and complete all treatment requirements; 5) attend three sober support meetings each week; and 6) must not associate with known drug users, dealers, manufacturers, etc.
SCFDTC is a family drug court (FDC), which is a type of problem-solving court that incorporates essential components of the adult drug court model. FDCs blend the coercive ability of the dependency court with treatment and other needed services to more effectively address substance use and addiction in families. SCFDTC is designed as a unified model in which a specialized court docket, composed of a single-family court judge and other team members (representatives from treatment programs, child welfare, and state’s and client’s attorneys), work together to monitor and support participants. This unified model is different from the parallel model, whereby one judge handles the statutory dependency matters while others handle responses and interactions surrounding the weekly drug court proceedings.
SCFDTC provides support through judicial supervision, substance use disorder treatment, urinalysis testing, and incentives and sanctions. The program consists of four phases, Intensive, Keeping Pace, Transition, and Aftercare, which are outlined in the participant handbook (a link to the handbook is provided under Implementation Information). Each phase has associated compliance requirements and criteria for advancement, including a participant’s sobriety, progress in treatment, progress in dependency case, continued compliance with court orders, and SCFDTC team recommendations.
SCFDTC uses a single drug–alcohol treatment provider. The provider uses a validated screening and assessment tool to inform and build a strong case plan. The provider also uses various practices and interventions to meet the diverse needs of the participant population. In general, participants are expected to be drug free while completing the program. Components include a series of structured services such as cognitive–behavioral drug dependency treatment, individual and group counseling, parenting classes, life skills, and educational programs.
The SCFDTC team uses both incentives and sanctions to motivate participants for behavior change. The purpose of an incentive is to give participants a tangible positive acknowledgment of progress from the SCFDTC team. Alternatively, a sanction is a consequence for a failure to meet FDTC requirements, which are decided by a judge and are guided by a sanction chart and recommendations from FDTC team members. Any sanction given by the court to address a participant’s behavior may also result in delayed advancement to the next phase.
Length of Dependency
van Wormer and Hsieh (2016) found that children with parents in the Snohomish Court Family Drug Treatment Court (SCFDTC) treatment group spent fewer days in the child welfare system than nonparticipating parents in traditional court processes. Treatment group parents were unified with their children, on average, after about 1 year and 1 month, compared with an average of about 2 years and 4 months for the comparison group. This finding was statistically significant.
Child Returned (Dependency Status)
Parents in SCFDTC were more likely to have their children returned, compared with the comparison group (69 percent versus 62 percent, respectively). This finding was statistically significant.
Permanency Planning (Dependency Status)
Lastly, parents in SCFDTC were more likely to experience a permanency planning outcome. This finding was statistically significant.
Using a quasi-experimental design, van Wormer and Hsieh (2016) compared substance-using parents in the Snohomish County Family Drug Treatment Court (SCFDTC) program with non-participating parents on variant measures of success (dependency, time spent in the child welfare system, and treatment completion).
The SCFDTC treatment group was drawn from a purposive sample of individuals who participated in Snohomish County’s program between the years of 2009 and 2011, and the comparison group was pulled from a similar sample of individuals participating in traditional court proceedings within the county and within the same timeframe.
All 154 study subjects had a dependency filing with allegations of abuse and/or neglect of a child and a record of treatment completion. Due to the confidential nature of client information, only three participant characteristics were available: gender, race, and treatment type. Propensity score matching was used to ensure that treatment and control groups were similar enough to be comparable. After conducting a 1:1 matching strategy without replacement, 77 traditional court clients were matched with 77 participants in the treatment group. In both groups, almost 33 percent of clients were male, and 94 percent were white. Approximately 64 percent of clients had received outpatient treatment, 35 percent received mental health treatment or other interventions, and 1 percent received inpatient treatment. There were no statistically significant differences on demographic characteristics between groups at baseline.
The evaluation looked at the following three outcomes: 1) dependency status, 2) length of dependency, and 3) treatment completion. The dependency status outcome measured a) whether the children were returned to their parents; b) whether parental rights were terminated; and c) whether a permanency plan was implemented that included a plan to return the children to parents, an adoption agency, or to others’ custody. The length of dependency outcome measured how many days the children spent in the child welfare system before a final disposition on their dependency status was determined. The treatment completion outcome measured whether the participants successfully completed the assigned types of treatment (inpatient, outpatient, or mental health/other treatment).
Data was collected from the Snohomish Court and Department of Social and Health Services management system databases. Data analysis included Pearson’s chi-square and t tests to examine the differences between the treatment and comparison groups. No subgroup analyses were conducted.
The Snohomish County Family Drug Treatment Court (SCFDTC) is guided by the 10 Key Components for Successful Drug Courts, as established by the National Drug Court Institute (NDCI) and outlined by the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Justice Programs (Bureau of Justice Assistance 1997, p. iii) as follows: 1) Drug courts integrate alcohol and other drug treatment services with justice system case processing; 2) Using a non-adversarial approach, prosecution and defense counsel promote public safety while protecting participants’ due process rights; 3) Eligible participants are identified early and promptly placed in the drug court program; 4) Drug courts provide access to a continuum of alcohol, drug, and other related treatment and rehabilitation services; 5) Abstinence is monitored by frequent alcohol and other drug testing; 6) A coordinated strategy governs drug court responses to participants’ compliance; 7) Ongoing judicial interaction with each drug court participant is essential; 8) Monitoring and evaluation measure the achievement of program goals and gauge effectiveness; 9) Continuing interdisciplinary education promotes effective drug court planning, implementation, and operations; and 10) Forging partnerships among drug courts, public agencies, and community-based organizations generates local support and enhances drug court program effectiveness.
For a detailed description of each of the four phases of the SCFDTC and its associated compliance requirements, see the participant handbook: //snohomishcountywa.gov/DocumentCenter/Home/View/3701
These sources were used in the development of the program profile:
Bureau of Justice Assistance. 1997. Defining Drug Courts: The 10 Key Components (NCJ 205621).
Washington, D.C.: Bureau of Justice Assistance.
Hsieh, Ming-Li. 2014. Program Evaluation for Snohomish County Family Drug Treatment Court: Research Brief.
Spokane, Wash.: Washington State Institute for Criminal Justice.
van Wormer, J., Zach Hamilton, Ming-Li Hsieh, and Sean Murphy. 2014. Snohomish County Family Drug Treatment Court: Process, Outcome and Cost-Benefit Evaluation Report
. Spokane, Wash.: Washington State Institute for Criminal Justice.