What is the Family Drug Treatment Court?
The Family Drug Treatment Court (FDTC) is a program within the Family Division of the Children’s Court of Victoria that commenced at the Broadmeadows Children’s Court and has now been expanded to the Shepparton Children’s Court.
It is a judicially monitored, therapeutic 12-month program conducted in a highly supportive non-adversarial environment. The program seeks to engage parents whose children have been taken into care due to parental substance misuse or dependence and uses intensive case coordination and holistic therapeutic intervention to address issues of substance misuse with the aim of achieving safe and sustainable family reunification of parents and their children. The program’s inception occurred pursuant to a Churchill Scholarship undertaken by Magistrate Greg Levine exploring similar courts throughout the United States and the United Kingdom.
The FDTC program consists of 3 phases that participants move through as their recovery progresses. In the first phase, participants must attend court each week to meet with the Magistrate and their FDTC team to discuss their recovery goals and their support needs, in addition to providing supervised urine drug screens three times per week. In the second phase, participants are only required to attend court once per fortnight and provide supervised urine drug screens twice per week, while in the third and final phase, court attendance is expected once per month and supervised urine drug screens occur once per week.
FDTC participants are allocated their own FDTC Clinical Case Manager who will guide the development of a Family Recovery Plan that identifies treatment strategies to address substance misuse, as well as addressing any needs associated with mental and physical health, housing, parenting, family violence and child safety, stability and development. The FDTC works in a collaborative manner with a range of external support services to attempt to meet these needs.
FDTC participants are expected to attend some core support programs, in addition to being able to choose to attend others. Programs and supports currently offered include parenting skill development, cooking and nutrition, yoga/mindfulness, safe and healthy relationships, and peer mentorship.
The FDTC program runs for 12 months, with an optional 6 months of aftercare support available. This does not mean that reunification with children cannot occur as soon as it is safe to occur, but where reunification does occur during the program, participants are expected to remain engaged with the program for the full 12 months.
The FDTC embraces diversity, and all participants can expect to be treated with respect at all times in the FDTC program.
The FDTC acknowledges the traditional custodians of the land on which the Children’s Court of Victoria sits and we pay our respect to their Elders – past, present and emerging.
For a further overview of the FDTC, please view the 7 minute video (please see link in the related resources menu on the right).
Two independent evaluations of the FDTC have been undertaken – the first by Health Outcomes International in 2017, and the second by Swinburne University’s Centre for Forensic Behavioural Science in 2018. Combined, evaluation outcomes have included that;
- Participants joining the FDTC are between 1.6 and 2.5 times (variation relates to time in program) more likely to achieve reunification than a matched comparison sample whose case progressed through the mainstream court alone.
- For participants who engaged with the FDTC for at least 6 months, 72.2% achieved reunification with their children, compared to 43.3% in the mainstream matched comparison sample.
- For FDTC participants, the average length of time to final order (reunification) is 1.1 years compared to 3.5 years for the mainstream court cohort.
- FDTC outcomes are more sustainable than those in the mainstream matched comparison sample, with FDTC participants 2.2 times less likely than mainstream participants to have a substantiated report made to child protection in the post-court period.
Who is eligible to be referred?
To be eligible for referral to the FDTC, a prospective participant must:
Have a child / children currently residing out of their care predominantly due to concerns relating to substance use, and the youngest child must be aged under 3 years;
Have a child / children OF ANY AGE residing out of their care predominantly due to concerns relating to substance use, where the duration of the out of parental care placement does not exceed 6 months.
The prospective participant must consent to the referral being made.
The prospective participant must be seeking to have their child / children returned to their care.
The child protection case must be case-managed from the DHHS office that is serviced by the Children’s Court the FDTC program is based in (for example, for referral to the FDTC in Broadmeadows, the child protection case must be case managed from the DHHS Preston office.)
Referral to FDTC is not dependent on any particular Children’s Court order type.
How to refer
If you are a parent considering referral to the FDTC, speak with your legal representative and/or allocated child protection practitioner.
All referrals are made in the mainstream court at a listed mention and ought to occur in discussion with all parties to ensure transparency.
The referral document is required to be submitted with the minutes at the time of referral.
Referral forms can be obtained from the Registry or Bench Clerk in the Broadmeadows Children’s Court or download a copy via the related forms menu on the right.
What happens after a referral is made?
Following a referral being made, the prospective FDTC participant will be contacted by a member of the FDTC team for the purposes of arranging an assessment appointment. Only three unsuccessful attempts to contact the prospective participant will be made before the referral is closed.
The purpose of assessment is to determine the appropriateness of the referral for induction into the FDTC program. Appropriateness for induction is based on the following:
- The existence of an alcohol or other drug problem experienced by the prospective participant;
- The acknowledgement of that AOD problem by the prospective participant as causative with respect to their child/ren not being in their care; and
- A preparedness and ability for the prospective participant to address this issue (i.e. “Treatment Readiness”) in accordance with core program requirements, including regular urinalysis and attendance to court.
If a referral is assessed as appropriate for induction into the program, an induction date will be identified as quickly as possible, with all parties advised.
Referral to the FDTC does not preclude a final order being made.
For more information on the FDTC, contact the Statewide Program Manager or Clinical Practice Leader via the following:
Statewide Program Manager
Ph: 0437 170495
Clinical Practice Leader
Ph: 0407 895 177