Family Dependency Treatment Court (FDTC)

The primary mission of the Family Dependency Treatment Court is to achieve safe and permanent families for children by addressing the dependency resulting from substance abuse of a parent or caregiver. This mission is carried out by addressing the comprehensive needs of parents and children through an integrated, court-based, and multi-disciplinary team approach which strives to achieve timely decisions, coordinated treatment, ancillary services, judicial oversight, and safe and permanent placements.

Since its inception in 2008, the FDTC has served 69 parents who suffer from long-term chronic and severe drug use. 195 children and grandchildren have benefitted from the program. Program goals to improve the lives of dependent children include: facilitating quick entry into treatment for targeted families, retaining targeted families in treatment for a significant time, helping program participants live a lifestyle that is free of drugs and alcohol, promoting community stakeholders to conscientiously work together, and complying with elements of the Adoption and Safe Families Act (ASFA).

The FDTC parents are required to complete intensive drug/alcohol treatment, follow all treatment recommendations including attending individual, group, family, marriage and/or residential treatment as recommended, attend 1-3 community support sessions weekly, provide 2-5 random observed drug/alcohol screens three times a week, attend weekly court sessions and complete weekly goals, receive unannounced visits from a specially trained Community Policing Team, complete parenting classes and two family education programs, provide appropriate and stable housing, request and review personal credit report, develop a sustainable budget, document an emergency fund, complete a resume with a cover letter, and referral document while seeking employment and documenting efforts until 35-40 hours of employment have been obtained, attend all scheduled visitation and demonstrate healthy parenting skills.

On June 26th at the 2012 Georgia Accountability Court Conference held in Atlanta GA, NPC Research, a company providing research-based information to guide public policy and a leading authority in Accountability Courts, recognized the Chatham County FDTC, led by the Honorable Patricia P. Stone, as “Top Family Court” in the State of GA with the highest number of research-based best practices.

Additionally, the Chatham County FDTC has been selected as a National Peer Learning Court for three consecutive years by Children and Family Futures and the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.

The members of the FDTC team have previously received numerous individual awards in their fields for their work with the FDTC. Awards include:

  • The 2009 Leadership Award at the 10th Annual Child Placement Conference in Athens, GA was awarded to the Honorable Patricia P. Stone (FDTC Judge). This award is given annually to an individual, in the public or the private sector, who demonstrates outstanding vision for change and leadership in advocating for children and families served by the Georgia foster care and juvenile justice systems.
  • WJCL's Champion for Change 2009 was awarded to the Honorable Patricia P. Stone for her continuing work as the presiding Judge for the FDTC.
  • The 2009 Case Manager of the Year Award at the 10th Annual Child Placement Conference in Athens, Georgia was awarded to Yolanda Parker (former FDTC designated case manager). This award is given to a case manager that made outstanding contributions to the field of social services.
  • The 2010 Child Advocate Award from the State Bar of Georgia Young Lawyers Division Juvenile Law Committee in the category of Deprivation - Legal Advocate was awarded to Leo Beckmann, Jr. (FDTC S.A.A.G.) in recognition of his demonstrated commitment and service, above and beyond the call of duty, to children and families in GA.
  • The 2010 Juvenile Court Attorney of the Year from the Georgia Association of Homes and Services for Children was awarded to J. Michael Love (FDTC parent attorney) in recognition of his demonstrated outstanding commitment to children and families in Georgia.
  • The 2013 Child Advocate Award from the State Bar of Georgia Young Lawyers Division Juvenile Law Committee in the category of Deprivation - Legal Advocate was awarded to Lori Loncon (FDTC Staff Attorney) in recognition of her demonstrated commitment and service, above and beyond the call of duty, to children and families in GA.

To date, the FDTC has secured grant funding in 15 separate awards totaling $950,707. These funds were, and are, utilized to assist the county in the development and implementation of the FDTC, provide individual counseling and case management for participants, provide assistance with lingering legal issues that inhibit the parents’ ability to progress, organize and implement the Community Policing Team, provide specialized training for the Community Policing and the FDTC Team, and implement four ongoing evidenced-based programs:

  1. Celebrating Families is a program from the National Association of Children of Alcoholics for families in early recovery. Many families affected by chemical dependency have unhealthy family rules such as: “don’t talk, don’t trust, and don’t feel” that have been passed down for generations. Many have false beliefs that they have caused the disease, can cure the disease, and/or can control the disease. Celebrating Families examines how families are affected by chemical dependency and teaches skills to break those patterns.

  2. Strengthening Families is an evidence-based SAMHSA program for families in recovery to teach healthy family functional skills such as improving behavior, increasing communication, decreasing overt aggression, and preventing child drug use.

  3. SAFECARE is an evidence-based, in-home, parenting skills training for parents who are at risk or who have been reported for child maltreatment. The program teaches parent-child interaction, health education, and home safety using a structured problem-solving approach.

  4. Thinking for a Change is an integrated, cognitive behavioral change program for offenders that includes cognitive restructuring, social skills development, and development of problem solving skills. This program lasts 25 weeks.

According to a 2002 Office of Justice Program study, the estimated costs related to the birth of a drug and/or alcohol exposed baby are between $962,500 and $1,787,500 in today’s dollars. The Chatham County FDTC has had 15 drug-free babies to date for a total estimated cost savings between $14.4 million and $26.8 million dollars.

For more information on the FDTC program, please contact Joni Strange at (912) 652-6915 or at jlstrange@chathamcounty.org.<

Frequently Asked Questions  

Who is eligible to join FDTC?
Any parent or caregiver who resides in Chatham County and who has a child adjudicated dependent due to the caretaker’s substance abuse or dependence.

What services does FDTC provide and to whom?
FDTC provides services to parents AND children. In addition to connecting parents with substance abuse treatment, FDTC provides parents with individual counseling, GED or other tutoring services, relationship counseling, anger management, family counseling, nutrition, bonding/attunement therapy, job skills/employment training, evidence-based parenting, and additional visitations with their children. FDTC also provides children with individual counseling or play therapy, tutoring, art therapy, and other services as needed.

How does an FDTC case differ from a DFCS case?
Participants of FDTC get additional services, support, and accountability. FDTC cases are reviewed with the judge weekly, whereas a traditional case may only get reviewed every few months. Participants have an opportunity to speak with the judge, their attorney, DFCS case manager, and other service agencies and hold them accountable for the services they provide and complete their case plan in a timelier manner. FDTC builds a support network for its participants utilizing the 12-15 professionals that comprise the FDTC team including members from CASA, DFCS, Recovery Place Inc., Chatham County Sheriff’s Office, and Safe Shelter Inc. These team members work to provide the most in depth, personalized services and hold participants accountable for their progress in the program. In addition, FDTC provides support for recovery via frequent drug screening (at least 3 times a week compared to once a month for regular DFCS cases), community policing, and the use of therapeutic incentives and sanctions to modify behavior.

 
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