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November 2013Vol. 14, No. 8Developing Family Drug Court Programs

Family drug courts (FDCs) use the authority of the justice system to provide timely substance abuse treatment for parents whose children are involved with child welfare. FDC programs combine judicial leadership with efforts to partner with child welfare and substance abuse treatment professionals, with the goal of improving safety and permanency for children.

Different models for developing FDCs have emerged across the States, mostly based on the model of adult drug courts, but few States have developed standards that address issues specific to child welfare. A new publication from Child and Family Futures, Guidance to States: Recommendations for Developing Family Court Guidelines, presents a framework for developing effective FDC programs. In the publication, authors Nancy K. Young, Phil Breitenbucher, and Jane E. Pfeifer review research on effective practices and present a list of 10 recommendations for improving FDC programs:

  1. Create a shared mission and vision
  2. Develop interagency partnerships
  3. Create effective communication protocols for sharing information
  4. Ensure cross-system knowledge
  5. Develop a process for early identification and assessment
  6. Address the needs of parents
  7. Address the needs of children
  8. Garner community support
  9. Implement funding and sustainability strategies
  10. Evaluate shared outcomes and accountability

Prepared for the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, U.S. Department of Justice, this publication is available from the Child and Family Futures website: (2 MB)