HOUMA, La. (AP) – Two participants graduated this week from a special court in Terrebonne Parish created to keep families together as they go through the legal system.
The two parents are the first to have successfully completed the Family Preservation Court treatment plan and have been reunited with their children, officials said. They celebrated their accomplishment during a graduation ceremony Friday.
“I am grateful for the renewed hope FPC has given my family and me,” one graduate told The Courier and Daily Comet. “A team of professionals provided me with the resources and guidance needed to overcome addiction and prepare me for parenthood. Now my son will never have to know what it’s like to grow up in a dysfunctional home of addiction because of what FPC has done for me. “
Launched in March 2021, the Family Preservation Court provides parents quicker access to treatment and the ability to remain in treatment longer, organizers said. Unlike traditional drug courts, where the initial motivation is avoiding jail, the incentive in Family Preservation Court is maintaining child custody.
The program seeks to improve the quality, safety and welfare of children affected by drug addiction by supporting the long-term recovery of parents, providing accountability and allowing easier access to treatment during and after Family Preservation Court.
A team of organizers operate the program including a caseworker, the Terrebonne Parish District Attorney’s Office, the parents’ attorney, the children’s attorneys, CASA, the Department of Children and Family Services, caseworkers, local treatment providers and the program director.
“A unique aspect of the Family Preservation Court is its collaboration with the team of professionals at Ochsner-Chabert’s Behavioral Health Unit,” said Valerie Cooper, program director. “Their approach to acute detox with behavioral stabilization, then inpatient placement, offers an in-depth evaluation that allows the Family Preservation Court team to address the substance use disorder in a way that exposes many underlying mental health disorders that frequently lead to relapse.”
Participants meet with state District Judge David Arceneaux of Houma every two weeks to report their progress and to review their treatment plan with team members.
Through this “collaborative, non-adversarial approach,” the Family Preservation Court integrates drug use treatment and increased accountability into the process, officials said.
The ultimate goal is to give parents quicker access to treatment while teaching them how to manage their substance use problems as a lifelong illness, officials said.
The special court served an average of 15 clients last year, but organizers plan to enroll more.
“We hope to expand our program in the next year to 20-25 parents to give more parents the opportunity to heal their addiction and heal their families,” said Terrebonne Assistant District Attorney Ellen Doskey.
Arceneaux said the program has come a long way during its first year.
“I am impressed by the progress made by all of the parents in our program,” the judge said. “I am convinced that with our hands-on approach, more children will be reunited with their parents in a healthy and safe home.”
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