The Bureau of Justice Assistance Drug Court Technical Assistance Project at American University: An Important Resource for Family Drug Treatment Courts

Caroline CooperCaroline Cooper, Director, Bureau of Justice Assistance Drug Court Technical Assistance Project

Summary: The author and her staff share resources available to FDTC through this federal program at American University.

For most of the first decade of national drug court activity, the School of Public Affairs at American University served as the US Department of Justice’s national provider for technical assistance for all state drug courts: family, juvenile and adult, working closely with the Tribal Law and Policy Institute that provided comparable services to Indian Nations.

In the fall of 2002, the Drug Courts Program Office was closed. Responsibilities for drug court technical assistance were transferred to the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) for adult and tribal courts, and to the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) for juvenile and family drug court activity. At this time, American University (AU) began to focus its services on adult drug courts. Nevertheless, its drug court activities have continued to focus on issues of critical import to family drug courts, recognizing that, although much of the attention on “drug courts” has focused on adult programs that function within the criminal justice system and the recidivism reductions they have been able to achieve, the real heart of the drug court phenomena rests in the family drug court, which is treating the full spectrum of the effects of addiction.

Although AU does not provide on-site services to family drug courts, as it does for adult programs, it does offer resources through its general drug court technical assistance that have direct relevance to family drug courts, including:

  • Annual compilations of caselaw addressing legal issues arising in drug court programs, including family drug courts, with the most recent volume published January 2014
  • A “Frequently Asked Questions” series through which practitioners from any type of drug court (adult, juvenile, family, veterans, etc.) can ask a question that will then be circulated among other drug court practitioners (current and past) for response regarding relevant policies and/or practices(s) their programs utilize. In some instances, the FAQs focus on a family drug court–specific topic, such as “Family Drug Court Goals.” In many other instances, the FAQ memos address issues common to both family and adult drug courts—obtaining housing, drug testing practices, transportation services, for example.
  • A national database of all drug court programs —including family—which AU has identified and regularly updates. It includes contact information for the judges and coordinators involved with these programs, providing an excellent source for networking and information sharing. Summary information on the location of these programs is posted on the AU website.
  • A wide range of resources published on AU’s extensive drug court website that pertain specifically to family drug courts (for example, Judge Charles McGee, Judge Thomas Merrigan, Judge John Parnham, and Michael Smith, M.D. Applying Drug Court Concepts in the Juvenile and Family Court Environments: A Primer for Judges. Rev. 2000) or have direct relevance to family drug courts (for example, Jeffrey Kushner, Roger Peters, and Caroline Cooper. A Technical Assistance Guide for Drug Court Judges on Drug Court Treatment Services. 2014).
  • Periodic interactive webinars on topics of general drug court interest, with significant relevance for family drug courts. Recent interactive webinars, archived on the AU drug court website include:
    • Drug Court Treatment Issues in Rural America, which included judges and coordinators from three states (Idaho, Missouri, and Montana) discussing various responses they had developed to challenges in providing drug court services in their respective rural areas, including: (a) lack of access to adequate wrap-around services for drug court participants (employment services, vocational rehabilitation services, medical and dental services, daycare, etc.; (b) lack of alcohol- and drug-free housing for drug court participants; (c) lack of transportation for drug court participants who are unable to get to treatment/ meetings/work/school; and (d) dealing with drug court participants enmeshed in family drug use.
    • Translating Drug Court Research into Practice: Aftercare, Relapse Prevention and Continuing Care, which included a summary of effective follow-up strategies (telephone checkups, etc.) that can be used with participants who have completed a drug court program to support their recovery and identify and address situations of potential relapse as soon as they occur.[1] The webinar also included a wide range of suggestions from Judge John Schwartz (ret.) of Rochester, NY, on developing aftercare support for drug court participants while they are still enrolled in the program.

American University also provides extensive office-based assistance to respond to questions from the field on a wide array of topics relevant to drug courts generally as well as family drug courts specifically.

For Further Information, Contact:
BJA Drug Court Technical Assistance Project
Justice Programs Office, School of Public Affairs
American University
4400 Massachusetts Avenue N.W., Suite Brandywine 100
Washington D.C. 20016-8159


Caroline Cooper, Director
Steve Collins, Technical Assistance Coordinator
Tenzing Lahdon, Resource Coordinator

Author biography:

Caroline Cooper serves as the director of the Bureau of Justice Assistance Drug Court Technical Assistance Project. She and her staff share resources available to FDTC through this federal program at American University. 


[1] Nationally, approximately 50% of drug court graduates recidivate. While this figure is lower than the recidivism rate(s) for nondrug court graduates, at least some of this recidivism can likely be reduced through aftercare support.


National CASA Association Reprint Policy

If an article published in The Judges' Page is reproduced, credit shall be given to the author(s) of the article, the National CASA Association and the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges

National CASA Association | 800.628.3233 | 100 West Harrison, North Tower, Suite 500, Seattle, WA 98119 |

National CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) ©2015. The National CASA logo, CASA ®, "A Powerful Voice in a Child’s Life," "Stand Up for an Abused Child," "Speak Up for a Child," "Light of Hope" and "Give the Light of Hope to a Child" are all registered trademarks of National CASA.