Thanks to a state grant, Rock County soon will have a new family drug treatment court for parents whose children have been taken by Child Protective Services.

The grant comes at a time when CPS workers are dealing with more out-of-home placements for children and a significant need for substance abuse treatment, officials say.

Rock County is one of two counties in the state that received the $187,509 two-year grant, which retroactively took effect Jan. 1. The grant will be used to establish a court aimed at delivering treatment for drug-addicted parents or caretakers and reunifying them with children who were removed from their homes.

Officials hope the program will begin July 1.

The county plans to cap the court at 20 participants until the end of 2020, when the program’s funding ends. Officials say the court will be voluntary, and parents will be selected through a screening process.

The program will be similar to the county’s drug court, which is a criminal court designed to address underlying addiction. In some cases, CPS might coordinate services with drug court.

But unlike drug court—which treats only those charged with crimes—parents in the new family drug treatment court cannot be in a criminal court simultaneously.

Lance Horozewski, Rock County’s children, youth and families program division manager, said the new treatment court also will be “very actively involved” in a parent’s substance abuse treatment. He said the process will be more supportive and intensive and require a higher level of engagement than drug court.

Horozewski said the state grant will pay for a new caseworker to manage the court’s cases, drug testing, drug treatment and other ancillary services, such as travel vouchers.

Program participants will be expected to engage in intensive treatment services and attend court weekly, he said.

“It’s really a special court docket that is more supportive,” Horozewski said. “There’s a team that supports parents in their drug treatment and in their recovery. … The court system has much more limited involvement.”

Rock County Judge Michael Haakenson, who rules on juvenile cases, will preside over the new court.

Other court workers will include the new case manager, the county’s corporation counsel, possibly a guardian ad litem, Court Appointed Special Advocates (or CASA) and possibly a probation or parole officer.

Cassandra Baacke, ongoing case manager for the Rock County Department of Human Services, said the court’s stakeholders will interact with participants weekly, which will help their treatment and recovery.

Among the treatment options could be group treatment, more intensive outpatient treatment, periods of sober living, co-occurring mental health and substance abuse treatment and parent skill-building, Horozewski said.

It’s unclear what will happen to the new court after 2020, when the pilot program ends.

“Our hope is that we can demonstrate outcomes; we can demonstrate that families who are involved in the family drug treatment courts are more successful in treatment,” Horozewski said.

According to the county, 210 children were removed from their homes between January 2018 and April 11 because of neglect or abuse. Of those, 65 children, or 31%, were removed primarily because of parent or caretaker substance abuse.

Walworth County got its first entrant to its family drug treatment court in February 2018. That program, which is for parents who have a child in need of protective services (CHIPS), has 16 active participants.

Kate Luster, Rock County director of human services, said the county will not immediately see the results of the new court because it’s a pilot program.

But she said children ideally will spend less time in foster care as a result, and parents will be more supported in recovery, which should reduce or prevent future out-of-home placements.

“Even just reducing the length of time in care for kids provides relief to child welfare workers,” Luster said. “... When outcomes are better for families, the workload is less for child welfare workers.”

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