Tensions and contradictions in family court innovation with high risk parents : the place of family drug treatment courts in contemporary family justice

Harwin, Judith Elizabeth and Broadhurst, Karen Elizabeth and Taplin, Stephanie and Cooper, Caroline (2019) Tensions and contradictions in family court innovation with high risk parents : the place of family drug treatment courts in contemporary family justice. International Journal of Drug Policy, 68. pp. 101-108. ISSN 0955-3959

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Parental substance misuse is a leading factor in child abuse and neglect and frequently results in court-mandated permanent child removal. Family drug treatment courts, which originated in the USA and are only found in adversarial family justice systems, are a radical innovation to tackle this problem. Unlike ordinary court, they treat parents within the court arena as well as adjudicating, and in this way they seek to draw a new balance between parental needs and the child’s right to timely permanency. Family drug treatment courts have spread to England, Australia and Northern Ireland and international research has found they have higher rates of parental substance misuse cessation and family reunification and lower foster care costs than ordinary courts. Yet their growth has been far from straightforward. In the USA they have not kept pace with the rise of criminal drug treatment courts and in England and Australia their numbers remain small. The central purpose of this article is to explore why the family drug treatment movement has not achieved wider impact and to consider opportunities and challenges for its future development. To address these questions we draw on evidence and experience from the USA, England and Australia. We discuss the operational challenges, tensions between children’s needs for stability and parental timescales for recovery, the impact of wider economic and political change, and issues in data evaluation. We conclude that despite the promise of family drug treatment courts as a new paradigm to address risky parenting, effecting systemic change in the courts is extremely difficult.

Item Type:
Journal Article
Journal or Publication Title:
International Journal of Drug Policy
Additional Information:
This is the author’s version of a work that was accepted for publication in International Journal of Drug Policy. Changes resulting from the publishing process, such as peer review, editing, corrections, structural formatting, and other quality control mechanisms may not be reflected in this document. Changes may have been made to this work since it was submitted for publication. A definitive version was subsequently published in International Journal of Drug Policy, 68, 2018 DOI: 10.1016/j.drugpo.2018.04.019
Uncontrolled Keywords:
?? family drug treatment courtsparental substance misusecourt reformchild protectionneglect and abusehealth policymedicine (miscellaneous) ??
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Deposited On:
04 Jun 2018 08:28
Last Modified:
20 Feb 2024 00:47