Family Drug Treatment Court to help get lives back on track

The Victorian Coalition Government is establishing Australia’s first Family Drug Treatment Court, to improve the safety and wellbeing of young children who have been removed from their parents as a result of alcohol and drug abuse.

Speaking at the launch of the Family Drug Treatment Court, together with Attorney-General Robert Clark, Minister for Mental Health Mary Wooldridge said the Family Drug Treatment Court will work with parents whose drug addiction has played a significant part in their child protection involvement, to give them the best possible chance to rehabilitate and be reunited with their children.

“Parental alcohol and drug abuse is often a key factor in the decision to remove a child from the care of their parents,” Ms Wooldridge said.

“Parents referred and accepted into the Family Drug Treatment Court will be assisted to address their substance abuse issues, and also access other supports which may be needed including housing, mental health and family violence services, financial counselling and parenting education.”

Ms Wooldridge said the Family Drug Treatment Court approach is different from current court processes in that it creates a proactive, non-adversarial environment, develops direct relationships with parents through frequent hearings, works closely with a multidisciplinary support team and intensely monitors treatment for both parents and children.

The Court, which is part of the Children’s Court, will initially be based at the Melbourne Children’s Court, sitting one day a week and handling the cases of up to 30 families at any given time. It will move to the new Broadmeadows Children’s Court once construction is completed in 2015.

The work of the Court will be supported by funding of $1.1 million as part of a three year pilot to employ alcohol and drug clinicians and provide additional drug treatment beds at Odyssey House.

Parents will be required to attend court weekly and participate in drug testing up to 3 times a week, attend their treatment appointments and work towards the goals in their Parenting Recovery Plan.

“The ability of the Court to access coordinated services and comprehensively address issues such as substance dependence, mental illness, housing instability, family violence and parenting deficits are critical to rehabilitating parents and achieving reunification with their children,” Mr Clark said.

“Alternatively, if parents do not succeed in their rehabilitation then there is earlier decision making about a child’s long-term placement which enhances stability and is in the best interests of the child.

“We congratulate Children’s Court President, Judge Peter Couzens, Magistrate Greg Levine and the Family Drug Treatment Court Reference Group on this important initiative.”

Family Drug Treatment Courts are widespread in the United States and evaluations show that for families involved parents have a significantly higher treatment completion rates, children spend significantly less time in out of home care and reunification rates are considerably higher.

The establishment of the Family Drug Treatment Court reflects the Napthine Government’s commitment to work collaboratively across Government to address the complex issues faced by families, as articulated in our whole-of-Government plans: Reducing the alcohol and drug toll: Victoria’s plan 2013-2017 and Victoria’s Vulnerable Children: Our Shared Responsibility Strategy 2013-2022.