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The Family Wellness Court for Infants and Toddlers. Judge Erica Yew Santa Clara County Superior Court In partnership with Cynthia Ambar, MPA, Project Director Santa Clara County Social Services Agency And First 5 of Santa Clara County. FWC Overview.

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the family wellness court for infants and toddlers

The Family Wellness Court for Infants and Toddlers

Judge Erica Yew

Santa Clara County Superior Court

In partnership with Cynthia Ambar, MPA, Project Director

Santa Clara County Social Services Agency

And First 5 of Santa Clara County

fwc overview
FWC Overview

An expansion and enhancement of existing child welfare dependency drug court with a child focus

Target population: Pregnant women and parents, with children 0 to 3, whose abuse of methamphetamine and other substances have placed their children in or at risk of out-of-home placement.

fwc primary partners
FWC Primary Partners

Social Services Agency (SSA), SSA’s Department of Family and Children’s Services and SSA’s County Counsel

Superior Court

LACY (children’s attorneys)

Dependency Advocacy Center (parent ‘s attorneys)

Department of Drug and Alcohol Services

County Mental Health

FIRST 5 Santa Clara County

primary fwc goals 1
Primary FWC Goals (1)

Early identification of and intervention for the needs of pregnant women and parents with substance use disorders.

Rapid engagement and successful retention in treatment and care

Reduction in subsequent positive tox births

primary fwc goals 2
Primary FWC Goals (2)

Early identification and intervention for developmental delays, disabilities and concerns for children 0-3 whose parents come before the FWC

Creation of a comprehensive System of Care across all systems serving children in or at risk of out-of-home placement as a result of parents’ methamphetamine and other substance abuse

fwc eligibility criteria
FWC Eligibility Criteria

The parent has given birth to an infant that has been exposed to methamphetamine or other substance abuse during the pregnancy; OR

The parent has a child under the age of three that was either born drug exposed or has been raised in a substance abuse afflicted environment with documented abuse and/or neglect; AND

The parent does not demonstrate intractable mental health issues as presented in the filed petition; AND

The parent is not likely to face long term incarceration

rationale for child focus
Rationalefor Child Focus

Substance exposed high risk for developmental and behavioral concerns

Effectiveness of early intervention

Improvements in overall family functioning and relationships

CAPTA requirements for early intervention services, such as screening for substance abuse

fwc customer characteristics
FWC Customer Characteristics

“Fast-track” cases

History of child welfare system involvement as children

Prior cases in CWS, many with prior termination of parental rights

Extensive trauma history

Extremely low income

Homeless or living in substandard housing

Methamphetamine primary drug of choice

fwc services 1
FWC Services (1)

Therapeutic court environment, with regular reviews

Case management

Legal representation

Early drug and alcohol assessment and treatment

Residential inpatient-treatment for women; and for women with their children

Mentor Parent support

Domestic violence advocacy and services

Transportation assistance (bus tokens, bus passes for their children, bicycles, cab vouchers, gas money, out of county bus passes, car seats)

Linkages to shelter and housing

fwc services 2
FWC Services (2)

Limited funding to assist with barriers to case plan completion

Linkages to employment and benefits services, record clearance

Coordination with Criminal Court partners

Therapeutic services, dyadic and PCIT included

Pregnancy prevention education

Comprehensive developmental and behavioral screening, assessment and interventions for all children

Child appointed special advocates (CASA’s) for many children

fwc services 3
FWC Services (3)

Linkage to health coverage and primary care physicians

Access to a wide array of parenting workshops

Home visitation and Public Health Nurses

Early care and education services

GED assistance

Language assistance

Oral health care for children and some limited dental services for adults

Tattoo removal and MORE….

children s services overview
Children’s Services Overview

Funded by FIRST 5 Santa Clara County

Medi-Cal/EPSDT is leveraged

MHSA (Prop 63), County General Fund and reimbursement via public children’s insurance programs are also utilized for Mental Health services

System of Care: Tiered system based on level of need as determined by screening and assessments utilizing standardized tools and evidence-based practices

assessing for and addressing developmental and behavioral concerns
Assessing For and Addressing Developmental and Behavioral Concerns

ASQ/ASQ-SE (Social Emotional)screening

Level 1 assessment (based on concerns identified by ASQ/ASQ-SE)

Level 2 assessment (based on concerns identified by ASQ/ASQ-SE)

MDT (Multi-Disciplinary Team) meeting to discuss results, make recommendations

Referrals for community interventions as indicated

promoting bonding and attachment
Promoting Bonding and Attachment

Parenting curriculums that include children and parent/child interactions

Home visitation

Supervised visitation

Dr. T. Berry Brazelton’s Touchpoints

Child Appointed Special Advocates in a new role

addressing mental health needs
Addressing Mental Health Needs
  • Early Childhood Mental Health Specialist on FWC court team
  • Therapeutic services that include:
      • Parent-Child Interactive Therapy (PCIT)
      • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
      • Trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy (TF CBT)
      • Trauma-Focused Play Therapy
      • Dyadic (Child/Parent Psychotherapy)
      • The Incredible Years
duration of services
Duration of Services

Services initiated at dependency hearing

Services continue until child welfare case closed

Aftercare program in development, continued mentor involvement, recovery mentors, stepped down recovery support, alumni events, continuation of CASA services, continued mental health counseling for parent and child, in-home support services, parenting classes

Customized aftercare packet upon dismissal ceremony with Solidarity bracelet, phone card, FWC Team and community resources, photo with team in engraved frame, motivational card

fwc hearings 1
FWC Hearings (1)

Hearings may occur daily, weekly, twice a month or once monthly depending on parent progress

Staffings are held with the court team prior to the hearing to discuss case progress, concerns and develop joint recommendations

Incentives or Sanctions may be given

fwc hearings 2
FWC Hearings (2)

Strength-based therapeutic court environment

Parents are given positive feedback on progress and areas of non-compliance are addressed

Providers problem solve with client to identify and address needs

fwc hearings 3
FWC Hearings (3)

“When I went to court, I always had a voice. I didn’t just sit and get talked about, I wasn’t just talked about from different views. I actually was given a choice, ‘Do you have any concerns? Anything that you need?’ I was given a chance, so I should to speak up and not be over looked and talked about among everybody.”

family team meetings
Family Team Meetings

Purpose is to develop the child welfare case plan in a strength-based environment with input from family and friends, SW and FWC Team

Scheduled between jurisdiction and disposition hearings

Ultimate goals are to enable children to remain at home with extra support and to give the family an active role in developing their case plan

engaging fathers
Engaging Fathers

Equal focus on parents

Court environment

Men’s treatment counselors

Mentor Father

Male THU in which fathers and their children can remain together

working with trauma
Working with Trauma

FWC values statement includes trauma-informed system

Commitments by Partner Agencies

Provider education

Continual system assessment and modification

Trauma specific services-DADS seeking safety, Mental Health trauma based cognitive behavioral therapy

fwc funding 1
FWC Funding (1)

Awarded $3.7 million over five years

$6.3 million total with First 5 match

Grant funds Project Director, mentors, AOD assessor and counselor, mental health child specialist, court coordinator and training, onsite drug monitoring, short-term strategic planning and evaluation

Evaluation >10% of project budget

fwc funding 2
FWC Funding (2)

Enhanced model required an additional annual contribution of more than $500,000 for direct client services, many provided by one-time funding

Additional positions include parent therapist, mentor father, part-time psychiatrist, men’s treatment counselors and eligibility worker

  • March 14, 2008
  • 105 Families, 141 parents (with 90 being actively engaged) and 179 children served as of August 2009.
  • 14 cases dismissed, 11 reunifications and three TPR (78%) successful. Two of the three TPR’s had open cases prior to FWC enrollment. (State 37%, County 44%, DDTC 76% with non-fast track cases)
  • Target population expanded to include fathers, regardless of maternal involvement
  • No subsequent pos-tox births (despite many births)
sustainability 1
Sustainability (1)

Inventory existing funding streams

Identify gaps in funding or capacity issues in the service array

Identifying opportunities for systems integration/coordination, maximization of current leverage funding streams, and identification of funding steams that could be easily accessed to maintain the existing program

Implementation of governance structure that provides for top-down/bottom-up information exchange and decision-making

sustainability 2
Sustainability (2)

Identifying potential long term means to fund the program such as legislative initiatives, grant applications and seeking philanthropic support

Ensuring families are linked to all benefits for which they qualify, in particular CalWORKS

Cost analysis to demonstrate long-term cost savings

sustainability 3
Sustainability (3)

Making children in care a local funding priority

Reprioritization of drug treatment slots

Judicial advocacy for restoration of treatment services

Sharing resources among County depts

Convening and partnering with service providers with needed resources

primary keys to success
Primary Keys to Success

Commitment at highest agency administrative levels

Shared values

Passion and commitment of involved staff

Comprehensive service model

Service model that evolves as additional client needs are identified

Incorporation of the parents’ voices (through mentors and the actual parents before the court)

Promoting the parent-baby bond

primary challenges
Primary Challenges

Sustainability of enhanced model in an environment of budget cuts

Multiple and complex needs of clients, in particular housing and self-sufficiency, such as employment

Information sharing and data collection without a centralized database

Assessor funding years 3-5

why problem solving courts work
Why Problem Solving Courts Work

“What was beneficial for me was the encouragement that they [FWC] give you. They give you so much encouragement and acknowledge every good thing you do. I got teary eyed every time they would acknowledge me for all the good that I’ve done, you know, the hard work. I overcame the hard stuff in my life. Now it’s getting easier and easier. They acknowledge every single thing, too. And that’s what makes me want to go on more. It encouraged me to do good things, because I’m getting acknowledged by these people in the court.”

why problem solving courts work1
Why Problem Solving Courts Work
  • People want to do better, but don’t believe they can
  • The human spirit is strong
  • Genuine, constant positive regard penetrates pain and builds trust
  • Don’t discount “bribery” or the power of incentives
  • People love their children
  • Please contact Melanie Daraio, Community Progam Manager, FIRST 5 of Santa Clara County
  • Email address:
  • Website: