Communications Office:
David Bookstaver, Director
Mai Yee, Assistant Director
(212) 428-2500

Date: June 8, 1999

Seal of the Unified Court System
Children and Families Reunited as Family Treatment Court Graduates Its First Class
NEW YORK - The first graduates of the Family Treatment Court in Manhattan received the ultimate reward today for successfully ending years of substance abuse - regaining custody of their children. Eight graduates - seven mothers and a grandmother - were awarded diplomas and custody of a total of 17 children who were formally discharged from foster care. The graduates maintained sobriety for an average of a year, satisfied the permanency orders of the court, and demonstrated the ability to create a safe, drug-free, stable home for their children.

The Family Treatment Court, a special division of the Family Court in Manhattan, targets respondents over the age of 18 who have been charged with child neglect due to substance abuse. Modeled in many ways after the Drug Courts in State Supreme and Criminal Courts throughout New York, the Family Treatment Court is premised on swift referrals to treatment, frequent and consistent monitoring of the parent's recovery by the court, and assigned individual case managers and has the full participation of the New York City Administration for Children's Services. The Court's goals are the elimination of substance-abusing behavior, shortening of foster care stays, and family reunification if appropriate. If family preservation is not possible, alternative plans to ensure permanency for the child are pursued promptly.

Chief Judge Judith S. Kaye said, "A parent under the grip of chemical dependency is by definition an unfit parent. It is no surprise then that substance abuse by one or more caregivers is the primary factor in nearly 80 percent of all foster care cases nationally. Clearly, addiction is exacting a heavy toll on families in New York State and throughout the country. Therefore, it is particularly gratifying today to acknowledge the achievements of the first graduates of the Family Treatment Court. These eight women each have waged a personal battle for sobriety in order to again be entrusted with the responsibility and privilege of parenthood. Thanks in large measure to the Family Treatment Court, these graduates will be able to experience the profound satisfaction of raising their own children as productive members of society."

Graduation from the program is achieved after about a year of sobriety and meeting obligations to their children. All participants must have completed parental skills training programs and had regular and positive visitations with their children. Children are discharged to the home on a probational basis four to six months before graduation, during which time the progress of the family is intensely monitored. Other milestones, such as the establishment of stable employment or a plan for education or vocational training, must also be met. In addition, the children of respondents are provided with essential services, such as educational evaluation, early intervention and special needs assessment, and their school attendance is closely tracked. Graduation marks completion of participation in the Family Treatment Court but does not necessarily end supervision of the families by the Administration for Children's Services.

Chief Administrative Judge Jonathan Lippman said, "Since it first began operation in March 1998, the Family Treatment Court in Manhattan has handled a total of 140 cases of child neglect based on substance abuse, involving 250 children, and approximately 70% of these cases are in full compliance with treatment and permanency planning goals. The Court stresses close judicial monitoring and continuity in motivating individuals to overcome their chemical addiction, which is a fundamental first step in being able to adequately care for their children. This serves the best interests of the child, the parent and society as a whole."

The Manhattan Family Treatment Court is expected to handle between 150 and 200 cases during the next year in which it is fully operational. In 1998, the Court was selected by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Center for Substance Abuse Treatment as one of three model family drug court pilot sites nationwide. Along with family drug courts in Kansas City and Miami, the Manhattan Family Treatment Court is being studied to develop and identify best practices in an effort to create a national model for family drug courts.

Web page updated: August 16, 2006