116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS - Linn and Johnson counties, along with 12 other counties, now will have funding to continue or start a Family Treatment Court.
The court helps reunite parents with their children and keep them out of the system.
The Iowa judicial branch has allocated $349,138 within its 2015 operating budget to fund Family Treatment Courts in all eight judicial districts.
The federal grants supporting six courts since 2007 expires Tuesday but with the increased budget for the judiciary approved by the legislature this year, the six will continue, five more that started without support now will have funding and three additional courts will be created.
The allocation is slightly less than what the federal grant provided.
Family Treatment Court is a partnership between courts and community professionals that not only involves substance-abuse treatment for parents but also addresses problems that lead to drug addiction and allows parents to regain or maintain custody of their children.
Parents who have admitted to a substance-abuse problem and are at risk of losing their child because a Child in Need of Assistance case is pending are eligible for the court. Court participation is voluntary, but the parents are required to complete four intensive phases that can take more than a year to complete to graduate.
Setting up a court in each of the eight judicial districts was one of the objectives for the judicial branch, Iowa Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark Cady said during his 2014 State of the Judiciary speech in March.
The Linn program, which has received federal money since 2007, and Johnson, which started in 2012 without funding, will receive funding for a shared full-time coordinator.
The other five, which started in 2007 - Scott, Wapello, Polk, Woodbury and Cherokee-Ida - also will each receive funding for a coordinator, said Steve Davis, Iowa judicial branch communication officer. Those that started without a grant - in Buena Vista, Johnson, Warren, Washington and Webster counties - now will receive administrative support. Details of that support were not available Monday from the judicial branch.
And the three new programs - one in Cerro Gordo County, which started in August, and the other two - will be within the First and Fourth districts.
Davis said the Children's Justice Division of state court administration is working with those two districts to identify an appropriate location for the courts.
Sixth Judicial Associate District Juvenile Judge Susan Flaherty said everything is in transition because adjustments will be made in the program because, with the loss of the federal money, they cannot have a paid outreach worker.
'The outreach (worker) provided support to the families and stayed in weekly contact with them,” Flaherty said. 'She also helped with referrals to services and helped the parents progress through the phases of the program. CASA (court appointed special advocates) is going to be more involved.”
Flaherty said they also will have support from the Friends of the Linn County Family Treatment Court, a private not-for-profit set up this year to provide long-term support.
The board members include various people from the community and one of the graduates from the program, Jo Wolff. She was interviewed a few months ago by The Gazette about her struggles and how the court helped her.
The Linn program has 13 participants, and since 2007 there have been 61 parents in the program and 20 have graduated.
Sixth Judicial District Senior Judge Sylvia Lewis said the Johnson program is smaller, but there is a growing need.
'I'm optimistic about the program,” Lewis said. 'I'm looking forward to expanding it. Right now, I'm managing all the files and typing my own files.
'But I thought I would be in a better position, as a senior judge, to take on the program because I would have more time. The coordinator will be instrumental.”
The Johnson County program has seven participants now, 13 since it started in 2012 and one graduate.
Lewis said there have been some participants who have not completed the program, but they are doing well and considered successful. She said they may drop out because of a job or other obligations.
Flaherty agreed. She thinks they gain insight into their problems and may still be committed to staying sober and becoming a better parent.