Family Treatment Court Program
To promote the health, safety and welfare of children in the dependency system by actively intervening to address the drug, alcohol and other service needs of families through integrated, culturally competent and judicially managed collaboration that facilitates timely reunification or an alternative permanency plan.
Goals of the Program
King County Family Treatment Court has four primary goals:
- To ensure that children have safe and permanent homes within permanency planning guidelines or sooner;
- To ensure that families of color have outcomes from dependency cases similar to families not of color;
- To ensure that parents are better able to care for themselves and their children and seek resources to do so; and
- To ensure that the cost to society of dependency cases involving substances is reduced.
The Family Treatment Court (FTC) started in August 2004 with Judge Clark presiding. Family Treatment Court is an alternative to regular dependency court and is designed to improve the safety and well being of children in the dependency system by providing parents access to drug and alcohol treatment, judicial monitoring of their sobriety and individualized services to support the entire family.
Parents voluntarily enter the program and agree to increased court participation, chemical dependency treatment and intense case management in order to reunite with their children. Case review hearings initially occur every other week and then become less frequent as parents progress through the program. Incentives are awarded to recognize parents' achievements, and graduated responses are used when parents violate program rules. It is expected that parents will remain in the FTC between 12 months and two years. If a parent is unable to engage in services or maintain sobriety, the process has prepared the court for quickly finding the best solution for the children.
Through a collaborative, non-adversarial approach, the Family Treatment Court integrates substance abuse treatment and increased accountability into the process. The court's first preference is always to help make families whole or to find children a stable environment with their own relatives. Each family has an FTC team that reviews parents' participation and recommends services. The team includes: parents' attorneys, assistant attorney general, DSHS social worker, substance abuse counselor, CASA and/or child's attorney, FTC treatment specialist, FTC program manager, and the judge. This interdisciplinary team is cross-trained and works collaboratively to resolve issues.
- Integrated Systems: Parental substance abuse treatment in combination with enhanced judicial oversight and accountability are integrated within the traditional dependency case processes established under Chapter 13.34 RCW.
- Intervene Early: Program eligibility determination, chemical dependency assessment and treatment program enrollment will be completed during shelter care when possible.
- Comprehensive Services: Services follow a complete continuum of care and includes chemical dependency treatment (detoxification, residential and outpatient services), individual counseling, case management, therapeutic child care and other services based on the unique needs of each family.
- Increased Judicial Supervision: Initially, case review hearings occur every other week and become less frequent as the parent progresses through the program.
- A Holistic Approach to Strengthening Family Function: In addition to substance abuse treatment for the parents, parent and child-focused ancillary services will be accessible.
- Individualized Case Planning: Case planning for parents, children and the family will be based on comprehensive assessments of each.
- Ensuring Legal Rights, Advocacy and Confidentiality: All legal rights of parents and children are afforded pursuant to the dependency statutes under Chapter 13.34 RCW and records confidentiality laws pursuant to Chapter 13.50 RCW and related statutes.
- Regularly Scheduled Staffings/Court Reviews: Prior to a review hearing, the Family Treatment Court team convene to review those cases appearing in court that day.
- Graduated Sanctions and Incentives: Incentives are awarded to encourage and recognize a parent's progress through the program. Conversely, a system of graduated sanctions is used when parents violate program rules.
- Measuring Program Outcomes: Program data will be collected for purposes of analyzing program efficiencies, outcomes and effectiveness.
- A Collaborative, Non-Adversarial, Cross-Trained Team: Increased collaboration and communication is believed to lead to better teamwork and ultimately to better outcomes. The FTC team is committed to teamwork and participates in cross-discipline training, retreats and other events on a regular basis.
- Judicial Leadership: Research indicates that the relationship with the Judge is a major influence in whether a person will remain connected to a program and ultimately become clean and sober.
Who Is Eligible?
To be considered for the program, parents must:
- Be willing to admit to the court that his/her child is dependent; or have an existing dependency finding on his/her children;
- Be chemically dependent and willing to go to treatment;
- Be 18 years of age or older;
- Be a resident of King County;
- Be willing to sign a Consent to Release Confidential Information Form so that the team may share information with other team members and outside community providers;
- Have the ability both mentally and physically to fully participate in the program;
- Not be a perpetrator of sexual abuse or felony child abuse; and
- Applications/referrals to FTC must be received no later than six months from the date on which the dependency petition was filed.
Parent's applications are reviewed in a 3-step process. In the first step, the parents meet with FTC staff to verify eligibility. If they are found eligible, they are referred immediately for a drug and alcohol evaluation (if they do not already have one).
Step two includes the completion of the drug and alcohol evaluation and the clinical assessment of eligibility. The treatment provider submits written verification that the parent or parents are chemically dependent and suitable for participation.
In the final step, the team meets to discuss overall eligibility and takes into consideration the dependency petition, chemical dependency assessment and all other available information. Based on the available information and from the team's input, the Family Treatment Court Judge makes the final decision about whether or not the parent or parents are eligible for the program.
If accepted, the parent will begin treatment and start coming to court every other week. The parent's file will be also be transferred to an FTC social worker.
- Participation in the Family Treatment Court (FTC) is completely voluntary.
- FTC is an intensive program and requires great commitment. Parents will be required to go to treatment and attend court regularly.
- The FTC team includes: the parent's attorney, Assistant Attorney General (AAG), DSHS social worker, substance abuse counselor, CASA and/or child's attorney, FTC treatment specialist, program manager, and the judge. Note: Even as a member of the Family Treatment Court team, the attorney still represents the parent and makes sure his/her legal rights are protected.
- Many services are available and include substance abuse treatment, counseling, assistance with parenting, childcare issues, and Wrap-Around coordination.
The Family Treatment Court has capacity to serve 60 children at one time. Parental participation ranges from 12 to 24 months.
Between August 2004 and March 2016:
- 305 parents and 424 children have been accepted into the Family Treatment Court program;
- 93 have graduated; and
- 82% are female (50% of females were also single head-of-households)
Upon entrance into the program:
- 92% were unemployed;
- 52% were without permanent residence;
- 29% identified methamphetamine as their first drug of choice;
- 16% identified cocaine as their first drug of choice;
- 18% identified alcohol as their first drug of choice; and
- 30% identified heroin or opiates (Rx) as their first drug of choice.
Of the children (as identified by their parents):
- 62% are under the age of 4;
- 31% identified as Caucasian;
- 7% identified as Native American;
- 15% identified as African American;
- 3% identified as Hispanic;
- 32% identified as Biracial; and
- 12% identified as Multiracial.
Written for current participants, this link takes you to Frequently Asked Questions about Participation, Program Rules and Graduation Requirements.
Evaluation and Cost Effectiveness
A process evaluation and an outcomes evaluation of the Family Treatment Court were completed by the University of Washington's Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Public Behavioral Health Sciences and Justice Policy Division. The University of Washington also compiled information regarding the cost-effectiveness of family drug courts.
The King County Superior Court's Family Treatment Court Program works in collaboration with the following organizations in order to meet the unique needs of children and families.
Washington State Department of Social and Health Services
Children's Administration (external site)
King County Department of Community & Human Services
Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (external site)
Department of Public Defense (external site)
University of Washington
School of Medicine (external site)
Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences (external site)
Division of Public Behavioral Health and Justice Policy (external site)
If you know a parent who is involved in the Child Dependency System and whose drug or alcohol problem is the primary factor affecting their ability to protect the health, safety and welfare of their children, Family Treatment Court may be an option.
For more information on Family Treatment Court, please contact the Program Office at 206-477-2311.
Information for FTC Team Members