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Dec/Jan 2005Vol. 5, No. 10Implementing an Evidence-Based Parenting Program in Dependency Drug Court

Substance-abusing parents have different needs from other CPS-involved families. In order to meet these unique needs, Miami's Dependency Drug Court (DDC) has instituted a comprehensive approach to service provision that includes an interdisciplinary plan to help the whole family, as well as a parenting program, intensive case management and monitoring, communication across systems facilitated by a DDC caseworker, a high level of involvement on the part of the judge, and continual assessment. This program provides a promising model of holistic comprehensive services for substance-abusing parents.

Based on Miami's experience in implementing the DDC, the program identified the following essential components for developing an effective parenting program for substance abusing families:

  • Choice of Partner. When choosing a community agency to provide parenting training, look for one that has a track record for serving families affected by substance abuse and is flexible in its scheduling.
  • Parenting Curriculums. The curriculums should be based on a needs assessment of the targeted population, piloted, and continually reassessed to ensure they meet participants' needs.
  • Staff. Facilitators and support staff for the parenting curriculums should have experience and training in diversity, substance abuse, mental health issues, and behavioral issues. It is also recommended that co-facilitators are used to prevent fatigue and assist in monitoring behavior and participation. Additional staff are needed to provide childcare, often for children with behavioral or emotional problems.
  • Monitoring. A process should be developed to monitor parents' progress and report back to the court. Issues of confidentiality regarding progress should be addressed with participants at the beginning of the program.
  • Continual Assessment. An evaluation component should be built into the program to determine whether the curriculums are addressing participants' needs and making an impact on parenting issues.
  • Group Size. Group size should be limited to between 8 and 10 families. More families would make group activities difficult, while very small groups would not provide enough social interaction. Groups should also be culturally diverse in order to allow for exposure to different cultural norms for parenting and therefore more openness to new parenting practices.

An article on this program, "Parenting in Dependency Drug Court," is available in the Summer 2004 issue of the Juvenile and Family Court Journal. The article is accessible for a fee at