Through a rigorous application process, Children and Family Futures designated eight family drug courts to serve as mentors for the National Peer Learning Court program. Having demonstrated commitment to evidence-supported practices, innovative strategies to improve outcomes for children and families, and a strong foundation of collaboration among the court, child welfare, and substance use treatment agencies, the 2018 National Peer Learning Courts will continue helping advance the family drug court movement by furthering the exchange of learning through peer-to-peer technical assistance. Peer Learning Courts host visiting Family Drug Court professionals to experience their court in action and share proven policies, practices and lessons learned. This improves outcomes nationwide for the children – and the parents – of involved families.
For KCFTC, this is its second redesignation. Having been a best-practices leader in the Family Drug Court field, the court received its initial designation as a National Peer Learning Court in 2014 and was first redesignated as a mentor in 2016.
Jill Murphy is the KCFTC Parents for Parents Program Supervisor with King County Superior Court, and she leads a team of Family Recovery Support Specialists, Treatment Specialists and Program Specialists. She’s been with King County since 2008, and has been supervising the Parents for Parents Program for 10 years. When asked what it means for King County to be redesignated as a National Peer Learning Court, she said, “It is an opportunity to continue to help serve other community leaders who are working to improve the system both locally and nationally, and it is an opportunity to help child-welfare-involved families be seen, be heard and be valued.”
KCFTC’s mission is to promote the health, safety and welfare of children in the dependency system by actively intervening to address the drug, alcohol and other service needs of families through integrated, culturally competent and judicially managed collaboration that facilitates timely reunification or an alternative permanency plan. Originally implemented in 2004 and supported by a Federal Bureau of Justice Assistance Demonstration Grant, KCFTC was sustained with local County funding. KCFTC then used the County’s Mental Illness and Drug Dependency (MIDD) fund to expand in 2009, and in 2016 used MIDD funds and a Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) grant to expand, increasing the number of children served each year from 30 to 140. The program now has six social workers and can carry a caseload of 78 children at any one time between two court locations; a full-day court in Seattle and another in Kent.
“With the SAMHSA grant, we were able to expand our Kent court to a full day calendar, and hire two Family Recovery Support Specialists,” said Murphy. “These specialists are parents who have completed the program successfully, and they are a key factor in the success of our program. They serve as liaisons between program participants, family, team, and treatment organizations to eliminate obstacles to recovery and child well-being. They also help connect participants to community resources, supports, and tools to sustain their recover after exiting the program.”
The University of Washington conducted research about the KCFTC’s process, outcome and disproportionality evaluations, and summarized the statistically significant findings about the KCFTC participants in contrast to comparison groups:
- parents were more likely to be admitted to and use treatment services than comparison group parents.
- parents entered treatment sooner, remained in treatment longer, and were more likely to be successfully discharged.
- children spent less time in out-of-home placements and less time in the child welfare system.
- children were more likely to be permanently reunified with their parent or be on a trial home visit with their parent.
- families of cultural minorities in the KCFTC had more positive outcomes than families of color in the comparison group; comparisons with white families in KCFTC were mixed.
This Peer Learning Court mentorship program has been funded by a grant from the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention since 2012 and is one component of a variety of technical assistance available through the National Family Drug Court Training and Technical Assistance Program. With this year’s Peer Learning Court designation, KCFTC is joined by Missouri’s Dunklin County Family Treatment Court, Colorado’s Jefferson County Family Integrated Treatment Court, Florida’s Miami-Dade County Dependency Drug Court, California’s Sacramento County Early Identification Family Drug Court, New York’s Tompkins County Family Treatment Court, Oklahoma’s Tulsa County Family Drug Court, and Iowa’s Wapello County Family Treatment Court.
For those interested in visiting KCFTC and receiving mentoring, the program has three hosting availabilities each year, with a capacity for eight people each.
For more information about receiving peer mentoring, contact Jill Murphy, LICSW, at 206-477-2311 or Jill.Murphy@KingCounty.gov. For more information about training and technical assistance available, visit the Center for Children and Family Futures website.