Family court addresses addiction

Wis. county takes new angle at opioid epidemic

CNN

A Wisconsin county is piloting a family court program aimed at protecting the children of drug addicts by keeping parents accountable.

The aim of the Kenosha County Family Drug Treatment Court is to use substance abuse recovery programs to help reunite families who have had a child or children placed in foster care. Parents who enter the program, which began April 1, will appear regularly before a judge to track their progress.

“When these parents are in front of a judge frequently — the judge meets with them, encourages, rewards and stays on top of the progress they are making, or holds them accountable or shows some displeasure when they are not making progress — that motivates parents to put in more effort,” Ron Rogers, director of Kenosha County Children and Family Services, told the Kenosha News.

Judge Jason Rossell, who works Child in Need of Protection or Services cases in Kenosha County, said that the opioid and heroin epidemic is playing a major part in cases where children are taken from their parents.

“One of the first things we saw with our re-removals, that we had a significant percentage of cases where that was happening, and in almost all of those cases it was due to substance abuse,” Rossell told the Kenosha News. He also said that cases in which children were reunited with their parents and then taken into custody once again are on the rise.

Court data will be monitored closely to track outcomes and to expand the program if successful, The Associated Press reported.

"We want to track what we are doing right, or find out whether we are wasting our time here," Rossel said.

The Family Drug Treatment Court is fully funded through Medicaid and will not add any additional cost to the county, according to The AP.

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