Family Drug Treatment Court Helps Families Reunite, Study Finds

Print More
Photo by Wyncliffe via Flickr

Photo by Wyncliffe via Flickr


Parents who participated in family drug treatment courts to address substance-abuse issues—while their children were in foster care—were reunited with their children at higher rates than parents who did not participate in the courts, according to a study published in the Juvenile & Family Court Journal.

“(Family Drug Treatment Courts, or FDTCs) seek to blend the coercive ability of the dependency court with treatment and other needed services in order to more effectively address substance abuse and addiction in families,” write Jacqueline van Wormer, assistant professor of criminology and criminal justice at Washington State University and Ming-Li Hsieh, a doctoral student at the school.

“These programs aim to reunify families, if in the best interest of the child.”

The study looked at 468 participants (82 enrolled in an FDTC program and 386 enrolled in a traditional court program) in Snohomish County, Washington, between 2009 and 2011, and determined that 69 percent of parents enrolled in the FDTC program were reunited with their children, versus 62 percent of parents enrolled in a traditional court program.

FDTCs, which provide treatment, parenting skills, employment, housing, and other services, were developed nationwide in response to the Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997, which seeks to ensure children are reunited with their parents rather than remaining in foster care for long periods of time. There were 329 FDTC programs nationwide as of 2012.

Other findings of the study include:

  • FDTC program participants were nearly three times as likely to complete treatment than parents participating in the traditional court program.
  • The percentage of FDTC participants who had their parental rights terminated was lower (9 percent) than traditional court participants (30 percent).

The study is available here for a fee. (Journalists who would like to receive the study free of charge should email Deputy Editor Alice Popovici at

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *