Evaluating the Efficacy of a Family Drug Court
Method: This study used treatment and comparison data to test the question of interest. Treatment group data was collected on a sample of 147 children whose child welfare cases were being adjudicated in an integrated family drug court in a midsized Midwestern city. The comparison group was assembled from a state database of traditional child welfare cases involving parental substance abuse using propensity score matching on six variables (time in placement, child age, child gender, and three child race/ethnicity variables), resulting in a matched comparison group of 236 children. This study used a Cox regression model with hazard rate to evaluate reunification rate between groups, controlling for variables previously found to influence reunification rates. The cluster option was used to address the nested nature of this data.
Results: Outcome data suggest that FDC children were significantly more likely to reunify than comparison cases (H.R.=2.72, p=.01), after controlling for age, gender, race/ethnicity and reason for removal. The Hazard rate suggests that FDC children reunified at a rate almost three times greater than comparison group children. None of the covariates were significantly associated with reunification.
Implications: This study adds to the growing body of literature supporting the efficacy of family drug courts for meeting policy driven goals with this challenging population. These findings support social workers’ continued involvement with FDCs, since they provide a more effective and service oriented way of processing child welfare cases involving parental substance abuse than traditional child welfare courts. Future research should evaluate best practices for social workers in this setting.