Hearing Officer Jim Teal sounded his gavel. “This is the time and place set for Early Intervention Family Drug Court,” he began, gazing sternly at the parents who sat before him. “Graduation from this court is considered a critical factor in determination that the children of participants will be safe from any further exposure to the danger and destructive impact of parental substance abuse.”
There has been a surge recently, across the U.S., in the number of children entering the foster care system after years of decline. Nationally, roughly 265,000 kids entered foster care in 2015 — the highest number since 2008, according to a recent government report.
Parents who receive addiction treatment are much more likely to get their kids back, but 4 in 5 parents fail to complete their treatment regimen.
The Early Intervention Family Drug Court aims to change that by helping parents with substance abuse problems to complete treatment before their children enter the foster care system. If the parents fail, they’ll be sent to a formal family drug court, where their children are taken away and given attorneys of their own.
But before that, the parents get this opportunity to enter recovery, through a mix of support, medication-assisted treatment and tough love.
Many parents participating in the early intervention drug court entered the system after having babies born dependent on opioids or other drugs. Others were reported to Child Protective Services by friends or family. All are at risk of losing custody of their children because of their drug …