What is the Travis County Family Drug Treatment Court?
The Travis County Family Drug Treatment Court (TCFDTC) is a program for parents who are struggling with problems of alcohol/ drug addiction and are involved in the Child Protective Services Civil Court system of Travis County. The Court is designed as an enhancement to the Child Protective Services (CPS) Court docket.
The goal of the TCFDTC is to maintain children in the care of their parents while they begin the journey of recovery from addiction and develop the skills and ability to safely parent their children. This focus of support and accountability for the parents and their children is to promote the goal of stopping the cycle of abuse/ neglect and addiction for the next generation.
Success of TCFDTC participants is achieved through very close monitoring by the Court and the use of frequent and incremental incentives and sanctions. The Court provides the parent with encouragement and the parent develops an individual relationship with the Judge. Small goals, via frequent Court orders, are set to monitor progress. This process relies on the parent’s individual strengths and their family support to ensure the parent’s success.
The TCFDTC program is designed to be a non-adversarial approach. It is the hope of the TCFDTC team that the participants will view the team as a resource and an additional support to help them with their lifetime goal of sobriety, continued recovery and safely parenting their children. All members of the TCFDTC team focus on building healthy and respectful relationships with the participants, to promote the empowerment of the participants to continue similar positive relationships in the future.
Who is eligible for Travis County Family Drug Treatment Court?
Travis County Family Drug Treatment Court (TCFDTC) participants are Travis County residents who have been identified by the Texas Department of Family & Protective Services, Child Protective Services (CPS) as exhibiting symptoms of substance use disorders that impact the care and well-being of their young children.
Initially, TCFDTC participants enroll in Parenting in Recovery (PIR), TCFDTC’s sister program that provides financial support for substance abuse treatment and support services for participants for as long as they are enrolled in TCFDTC. Once enrolled in PIR, participants enter residential substance abuse treatment—typically with up to two children under the age of six. Potential participants then observe and ultimately join the TCFDTC program after they have consulted with a court appointed attorney.
Eligibility for PIR-TCFDTC starts with the nature of the CPS referral, which may occur under any of the following three basic admission criteria:
- A mother gives birth to a baby who tests positive for drugs.
- A mother is pregnant and tests positive for drugs and has at least one child under age five in the home.
- A mother is using drugs and has at least one child under age five in the home.
- Mother is dependent on alcohol and/or other drugs.
- Mother is not in acute distress due to a mental health diagnosis such that it would preclude her from actively participating in substance abuse treatment.
- The residence and caretaking plan of the children fit into one or more of the following categories:
- Children are with mother and will accompany her into treatment.
- Children are with relatives or fictive kin in Travis or a contiguous county.
- Children are with relatives, fictive kin, or foster care, regardless of their location, with a plan to reunify with mother in treatment within 45 days of removal.
- Children are with relatives, fictive kin, or foster care, regardless of their location, with plan to place with relatives or fictive kin in Travis or contiguous county within 45 days of removal.
- Mother demonstrates her willingness to participate in PIR by entering substance abuse treatment and enrolling in TCFDTC.
Fathers are eligible to participate in the TCFDTC program if the mother of their child(ren) meets the above criteria and is referred to CPS in the manner described above. There are also sources of support and funding for fathers to engage in substance abuse treatment and other services while in the TCFDTC program.
Please Note: In order for a parent to be considered for the Family Drug Treatment Court (TCFDTC) program, the parent must be the respondent of a civil suit filed by the District Attorney’s Office representing the Department of Family and Protective Services (Child Protective Services). Parents must also be part of a Court Ordered Services case (where the Department seeks only for the Court to order the parent(s) to comply with requested Court orders). Cases that are filed initially as Temporary Managing Conservatorship cases (where the Department seeks custody of the subject child(ren)) are not eligible for TCFDTC participation.
Program Structure and Funding
What funds the Travis County Family Drug Treatment Court?
There are four current funding sources for the participants and children of the Family Drug Treatment Court program and these are as follows:
This grant was recently awarded as an extension of funding for 2 additional years (the first five years were referred to as Parenting in Recovery or PIR). The grant is awarded by the Children’s Bureau and runs from 9/30/12- 9/29/14.
The amount awarded is $500,000 per year for 2 more years. Grant funding provides for a full-time Attorney Ad Litem for the children of TCFDTC participants through the Travis County Office of Child Representation, a full-time Child Therapist through Austin Travis County Integral Care, a part-time Housing Case manager through Foundation Communities, and a part-time Research Assistant through Encompass for evaluation of the project.
Grants funds provide funding for several services such as substance abuse treatment, recovery supports, housing/utility costs, medical/dental care, parenting support, and other wraparound supports. Grant funds also provide for trainings from the Center for Elimination of Disproportionality and Disparities (CEDD) and a complete program assessment and recommendations to improve practice. Encompass oversees, as part of the grant design, two evaluations of the PIR-TCFDTC to include a case study of discharged participants to document their current level of functioning post-program and a cost study analysis.
Additionally, the Child Trauma Academy will provide a 2-Day workshop to train TCFDTC team members.
The Children’s Continuum (TCC) grant is beginning the second of three years. The grant is awarded by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention and runs from 10/1/11-9/30/14. It is for the amount of $550,000 for period of 3 years.
Grants funds provide for a Child Therapist through Austin Travis County Integral Care to assess all children whose parents are in the Drug Court program and create individualized service plan, a Social Services Assistant with Travis County Health and Human Services to transport children to service appointments and supervise visitation, one quarter of a Court Appointed Special Advocate position for TCFDTC, and specialized services for Children (such as art therapy, equine therapy, behavioral aides, parent/ child mentors, etc…).
The Office of the Governor Drug Court Grant - has been awarded annually to the TCFDTC from the Office of the Governor of Texas since September of 2007 and runs from 9/1/12-8/31/13. The current annual award is for $137,388.
This grant funds the Drug Court Coordinator salary and benefits, drug testing services through contracted labs, and miscellaneous supplies such as bus passes and office or training supplies.
Travis County Funds are also utilized as the match for the PIR and TCC grants. Travis County funds the salary and benefits of the PIR Project Director and several services for parents and children such as substance abuse treatment, recovery supports, parent training, and other wraparound supports.
What supports does Travis County Family Drug Treatment Court provide?
Participants’ average length of participation in TCFDTC is 12-18 months, during which time they engage in programs, services, and activities that challenge, encourage, and help guide them to recovery from substance dependence, maintain or regain custody of their children, and improve quality of life for themselves, their children, and their families.
TCFDTC, in collaboration with its community partners, offers the following supports and services for participants and their families:
- Inpatient & outpatient substance abuse treatment
- Psychiatric & psychological evaluation & care
- Individual & family counseling
- Collaborative case management with program partners
- One-on-one parenting skills training
- One-on-one recovery skills training
- Supportive transitional & permanent housing
- Child-care assistance
- Mental health services
- Medical, dental, eye care, & pharmacy services
- Educational & employment support
- Social, emotional, & developmental assessment of, and treatment for, children of all ages
- Comprehensive treatment plan to meet all medical, developmental, educational, and psychological needs of the children
- Specialized services for children Concrete services for children such as limited assistance to purchase furniture, diapers, formula, and other household needs
TCFDTC participants are held accountable throughout the program through the use of frequent judicial supervision in the form of weekly drug court hearings. Accountability and the ongoing relationship with the TCFDTC Judge is an integral part of the TCFDTC program. The presiding Judge for the TCFDTC is the Honorable John Hathaway, Associate Judge, who is supervised by the Honorable Darlene Byrne, Presiding Judge of 126th Judicial District Court of Travis County.
Participation in the TCFDTC program is voluntary. Parents can elect not to participate in the program by not signing the client agreement. However, once a parent has signed a client agreement and agreed to engage in the TCFDTC program, they are subject to incentives and sanctions based on their behavior. The parent is also not allowed to voluntarily withdraw from the program without the permission of the Court.
Sanctions are assigned to assist the participant with their sobriety changing their behaviors and are not meant to punish the participant for the sake of punishment alone. Sanctions range from a reprimand by the Judge to time spent in jail for contempt of court. Incentives, encouragement, and positive feedback are provided as often as possible to improve the participant’s self-confidence and to support their continuation of the recovery process. Incentives include praise from the Judge, applause from the TCFDTC team, certificates and charms to commemorate phase advancement, and prizes from a “treasure box” of items donated by community volunteers.
The TCFDTC program consists of Four Phases, designed to last approximately 12-18 months. Parents who agree to participate in the TCFDTC program may advance through the phases based on phase advancement criteria and written requests to move to the next phase. A parent must have successfully completed all four phases prior to commencement from the TCFDTC program.
Who are the partners and team members of Travis County Family Drug Treatment Court?
TCFDTC brings together a large coalition of public agencies and community service providers who cooperatively provide a flexible, comprehensive continuum of services to women, children, and families who are involved in the state child welfare system as a result of maternal drug and/or alcohol dependence.
The TCFDTC partnership is comprised of the following entities:
- Travis County Health & Human Services—administrative oversight & support
- Texas Department of Family & Protective Services, Child Protective Services
- Austin Recovery Women’s and Women & Children’s Substance Abuse Treatment Programs
- Foundation Communities—housing supports
- Travis County District Attorney’s Office
- Texas Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA)—child advocates
- Travis County Court Appointed Family Advocates (CAFA)—parent attorneys
- The Travis County Office of Child Representation—children’s attorneys
- Austin Travis County Integral Care—administrative support and children’s therapists
- Communities for Recovery—peer recovery coaching
- SafePlace—domestic & family violence counseling & supports
- Lone Star Circle of Care—medical, psychiatric, & counseling services for parents & children
- Manos de Cristo—dental care
- Mauney & Associates, LLC—parent training
- Austin Oxford Houses—transitional sober living
- EyeSite Family Vision—optometry
- Eyemart Express—vision correction
- MedSavers Pharmacy—prescription medications
- David Brown, MD—psychiatry
- Hill Country Counseling—psychiatry & counseling
- Casey Family Programs—program supports
- Workforce Solutions–Capital Area—employment programs
Contact & Resources
For more information about the program, please contact:
Chuck Roper, PhD, LCDC
Michelle Kimbrough, LMSW
(512) 656-1536 - cell
For more information about drug courts and the interaction between child welfare and substance abuse, please consult the following websites:
National Association of Drug Court Professionals; National Drug Court Institute; National Center for DWI Courts; National Drug Court Resource Center
Children and Family Futures (online training and research related to Child Welfare and Substance Abuse Issues)
Texas Association of Drug Court Professionals:
Family Drug Court Community of Learning- information exchange and blogging among drug court professionals
Center for Court Innovation: Statewide Drug Court Training and Technical Assistance- webinars
National Center for Substance Abuse and Child Welfare- trainings, tutorials, and fact sheets
Family Drug Court Learning Academy Webinars (series of webinars on Family Drug Court issues from June 2010 to present on variety of topics):