Contributed by Ashley Christensen
The Federal Government has provided a grant to implement Family Drug Courts (FDC) in Iowa. Parents and Children Together (PACT): A Family Drug Court Initiative, in a joint effort from the Court personnel, area and county attorneys, the Department of Human Services, Jackson Recovery Centers, local treatment providers, and various other persons, Cherokee County has successfully initiated their Family Drug Court.
The first session began on March 12, 2008, and was followed two weeks later with the second. The Cherokee Family Drug Court meets bi-monthly at the Cherokee Courthouse from 8:30 a.m., on the second and fourth Wednesdays of each month. While these status reviews are closed to the public, if you are interested in more information on Cherokee's Family Drug Court, please contact coordinator Ashley Christensen at 225-6744.
The Cherokee FDC has received gushing reviews from the parents who are involved in the Family Drug Court. The utmost goal of this program is to allow for the children to stay in the home or with relatives while the parent(s) are receiving treatment. Studies have shown that there are adverse affects of the children being taken out of the home while the parent(s) receive treatment.
Family Drug Court differs from Adult Drug Court in that Family Drug Court is serving families who are currently in the Department of Human Services system and are at risk or have lost their children due to substance abuse. Adult drug court is serving individuals who have committed a criminal act involving illegal substances.
While both programs are geared towards adults, Family Drug Court has been developed as a means of keeping families together that have been torn apart by substance abuse.
There are five pilot sites across Iowa that received this generous grant: Linn, Scott, Wapello, Polk, and the Tri-County group (Cherokee, Ida, and Woodbury) that make up the Third Judicial District FDC. Cherokee and Ida County Family Drug Court is heard by the Honorable Judge Mary Timko. This is a Judge driven collaborative that focuses on the child's welfare in instances where the child is at risk of being removed or already has been removed from the home due to the substance abuse of the parent(s). This is a voluntary participation program, and it can be used as a tool in your recovery.
Judge Timko stated, "I am excited that Cherokee County has developed a Family Drug Court. When one considers that up to 80 percent of child abuse and neglect cases are substance abuse related, it is important to work towards developing a strategy of treating those families that shows promise.
"Drug court has been shown to be such a strategy. A recent four-year study by the Northwest Professional Research Consortium, Inc. found that parents involved in Family Drug Court were more likely than parents in traditional child welfare case processing to complete treatment and also be reunified with their children. And it appears from studies out of Texas, Oregon and Montana that Family Drug Courts actually save money in the long run," said Judge Timko.
The components of this program include: increased number of court hearings; treatment that is evidence based, family centered and available immediately; intensive community supervision and monitoring; positive reinforcement; treatment that is long enough to have a maximum effect and sufficient aftercare services. We have been fortunate to have several outstanding self-help groups in our area that have been playing a crucial role in the recovery of our families, such as Parent Partners, Mom's of Meth, Family Circles, as well as others.
What will be vital in the success of this program is the involvement of the community, to welcome these families back into a safe, sober environment. These families need to know that they have people in their community who believe in their success in recovery.
The local businesses will also play a key role in the success of our Family Drug Court Program, as we will need donations and volunteer services to sustain this program once the federal grant is over.
Some possible volunteer opportunities would include: driving the families from treatment to Family Drug Court hearings, mentoring, taking a family grocery shopping, teaching them to cook a healthy meal, gardening, participating in outdoor activities: swimming, golfing, bike riding, horseback riding, baseball/softball, basketball. There any many different activities that one could use as a volunteer activity; these are just a few. Working together we can help keep these families together!