By: John Kelly
Five local court systems were appointed last week by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) to serve as leaders in the field of family drug courts.
OJJDP and its national partner on family drug courts, the Anaheim, Calif.-based Children and Family Futures, named Baltimore City (Md.); Chatham County Juvenile Court (Ga.); Hillsdale County Family Drug Court (Mich.); Jackson County Family Drug Court (Mo.); and Pima County Juvenile Court (Ariz.).
The five were named Peer Learning Courts (PLC), and will be tasked with hosting staff and judges from other family drug courts and providing them with technical assistance.
“They have a lot to offer the field as Peer Learning Courts,” said Dr. Nancy Young, director of CFF, in a statement. “Awardees represent courts throughout the U.S. that demonstrate the use of sound evidence-supported practices and policies, as well as strong collaboration among the courts, child welfare, substance abuse treatment agencies and other key partners.”
The concept is borrowed from the mentor courts used by the National Association of Drug Court Professionals with adult drug courts, said Phil Breitenbucher, program director for CFF’s family drug court training and technical assistance program.
All of the courts except for Baltimore are currently grantees of either OJJDP or the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The courts are not being funded to participate as leaders in the field; CFF will assist them in arranging site visits.
Family drug courts target substance-abusing adults involved with the family dependency court as a result of an open child abuse and neglect case.
OJJDP granted CFF $400,000 in fiscal 2009 and again in 2011 to provide training and technical assistance to family drug courts. The five Peer Learning Courts were announced last week at a national symposium last week, which Breitenbucher said is the first national family drug court summit in “over a decade.”
“It was long, long overdue,” he said.
The peer learning courts will host courts that have either received seed money from OJJDP or SAMHSA, or hope to apply for such funding. OJJDP awarded just over $7.1 million to 15 states and local courts to seed family drug courts in 2009; eight courts at $3 million in fiscal 2010; and ten at $5.5 million in fiscal 2011.
The seed grants typically range from $400,000 to $600,000, and can be used for travel to the peer learning court sites. Breitenbucher said he expects an additional four courts to get seed funding from OJJDP in fiscal 2012.
CFF circulated an application for the peer learning court program last year, and developed a list of eight finalists with the help of the National Association of Drug Court Professionals and the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges.
The five courts were selected after CFF made site visits to each of the eight courts, based in some part on a desire to establish a court that was easy to travel to from most parts of the country.
-John Kelly is editor-in-chief of The Chronicle of Social Change