Family Recovery Court

More and more states are instituting Family Recovery Court programs. Consequently more and more addiction-impacted families are staying together. It's about time too!

Family Recovery Court Story

Aaron O'Neil was at wit's end. He was just about to enter rehab for prescription opioid addiction when his partner overdosed and died. Entering treatment now meant he'd likely lose custody of his infant daughter. So he chose not to go. Staying home though meant staying on drugs. And staying on drugs meant risks. It wasn't long before O'Neil was arrested and thrown into jail -- for the second time.

Then O'Neil got a break. Rather than throw him into jail and his child into foster care, Marion, Indiana authorities offered him an option: Family Recovery Court. It literally changed his life.

"First and foremost was the fact that it was based on your family," O'Neil told NPR. "You know what I mean? They didn't just focus on your addiction. [Sure] they want to help you with your addiction. But they want to help stabilize your home life, too."

O'Neil says Family Recovery Court helped coordinate everything from housing to child care. This, in turn, allowed him to more fully focus on his recovery. Furthermore, O'Neil was provided ready access to integral help whenever he needed it. Family Recovery Court essentially gave him a social safety net.

"When I first started, I just wanted to find a way to live a day-to-day life without using anymore," said O'Neil. "[But] after I had been in the program for a couple months, I [also] wanted to change who I was as a person - be a better father, be a better provider. And [Family Recovery Court] showed me ways to do that [too]."

O'Neil not only took everything that was offered, but he also applied it. And he applied it successfully. He's now clean, sober and stable. He now also has custody of all his kids. It's no surprise O'Neil can't stop raving about the program.

"The personalization of it makes the difference," he says. "Taking who the person is, working on what part of their life drags them down the most, and [then] getting that weight off of them. Personalization like that [really] makes a world of difference."

What is Family Recovery Court?

The Family Recovery Court movement began in Miami-Dade County, Florida in 1989 as an alternative to the traditional case processing of repeat drug offenders. It utilizes much of the drug court model. It also applies drug court research. Unlike drug courts however, Family Recovery Court is civil rather than criminal.

In other words, family recovery courts are non-adversarial. Yes, there's a judge. And yes, there's a defense attorney. But there's also a Department of Child Services attorney, case-managers and treatment providers. Consequently, FRCs focus on treatment and other ancillary services, instead of the usual fines and/or confinement.

FRCs do though utilize the same incentives and sanctions as traditional drug courts. These not only reinforce positive behavior, but they also hold parents and caregivers accountable.

Family Recovery Court is a voluntary program. And it's specifically designed to serve families with children in danger of being removed from their homes because of substance abuse.

"Drug courts' main focus is on keeping drug offenders out of jail," says NPR's Barb Anguiano. "Family recovery courts aim to keep children safe and secure."

Family Recovery

Recovery Boot Camp would like to applaud Marion, Indiana and the 500+ other American jurisdictions that are currently convening Family Recovery Court. We'd also like to congratulate Aaron O'Neil on his sobriety, as well as his strengthened family life. We know all too well how important families are to recovery. That's why we run extensive Family Programs, both here at RBC and at our adjacent Healing Properties. It's also why we host a comprehensive array of Family Programs with our affiliated Schnellenberger Family Foundation.

It's incredibly heartening to see an increasing number of courts turn away from punitive measures and toward a more integrated approach to treating addicts who've run afoul of the law, especially when families are concerned. And we wholeheartedly hope ever more and more juridictions add Family Recovery Court to their portfolios.

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