One reality courts and child welfare agencies understand very well is this: Behind a large number of the cases of child abuse, neglect and juvenile crime they deal with are families struggling with dependence on alcohol, drugs and other substances. Sometimes, the alcohol and drug abuse occurs along with other stresses in the family such as poverty and mental disorders. Address these underlying issues effectively, and the odds improve that the families will be more stable, the children less likely to suffer neglect or abuse or to engage in delinquent behavior — situations that could lead to parents losing custody of their children for a period of time or even permanently.
Helping families kick an alcohol or drug habit is intensive work, for which funding is increasingly scarce. Thus, it is quite remarkable that Summit County has won substantial federal grants toward this effort. Children Services won a five-year, $2.5 million grant last year to develop a network of agencies to address substance abuse in families with children in the agency’s custody. The collaborative program, called STARS, will provide intensive intervention services to 100 families a year as part of the effort to bring them to a point where they can be reunited.
Last month, Summit County Juvenile Court also won a three-year, $538,363 grant to launch a family drug court in partnership with the STARS program. The grant will help pay for a coordinator for the drug court and an additional social work assistant. The special court promises to be a critical enhancement to the STARS goal of stabilizing families for unification. The 25 families a year that will be under direct court supervision will have added incentive to stick with the program.