Message from the Editor

Judge J. Dean LewisSummer 2014

J. Dean Lewis, Judge (retired)
Former Member, National CASA Association Board of Trustees
Past President, National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges


What is a family drug treatment court (FDTC) and how is it different from the traditional dependency court process? Is FDTC an effective use of the limited resources available to courts, attorneys, CASA programs and public and private agencies charged with the responsibility of ensuring reasonable efforts, child safety, permanency and well-being in abuse and neglect cases? The answers to these questions and more will be answered in this issue of The Judges' Page.

Over the past 20 years, drug courts have evolved in both the juvenile and adult court systems. In dependency courts, referrals are generally made to the family drug treatment court by consent of the parties when parental alcohol and drug problems are identified. Over time, FDTC have evolved to address additional issues such as dual diagnosis of substance-use disorders and mental health diagnoses; co-existence of substance abuse and domestic violence; parent-child bonding concerns; and other factors that impede recovery and reunification.

The terms "treatment court" and "collaborative court" are appropriate descriptions of FDTC. The parents in FDTC receive treatment for their substance abuse and other identified issues, and a collaborative group of service providers assist in developing the case plan and providing appropriate resources. Another term that describes this court is "intensive." Hearings are held frequently, generally every two weeks. The Adoption and Safe Families Act's generic timeline is expedited in these cases. The case outcomes for parents and children involved in FDTC have been positive.

The Judges' Page applauds Judge Leonard Edwards (ret.) for his role in making this issue on family drug treatment courts possible. Judge Edwards started a dependency drug court when he served as superior court judge in Santa Clara County, CA. He has assembled an outstanding group of authors, who have written articles on every aspect of the topic for our readers. In addition, Judge Edwards wrote two articles himself. Our deepest respect and gratitude go to Judge Edwards for his continued commitment to The Judges' Page.

Articles in this issue include multiple-faceted perspectives on the operation and effectiveness of family drug treatment courts. Readers will likely conclude that every client in the dependency system should have access to FDTC. They are clearly a "best practice" for dependency courts.

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