The mission of the Lake County Family Recovery Court (FRC) is to treat chemical dependency, preserve families and protect children. Parents who suffer from substance abuse in Child in Need of Services (CHINS) cases are provided an opportunity to access and engage in an intensive, structured treatment program and are provided with a support network of holistic, strength-based services. Through a collaborative and non-adversarial process, participants are held accountable through frequent monitoring, evaluations, and Court reviews.
Entry into Family Recovery Court is voluntary. Such courts have been proven to reduce the time children are placed outside the home in CHINS matters. They are also proven to prevent removals in some cases.
Lake County accepted its first FRC participant on 8/13/2020. Thus far, we have managed to get parents’ services, including inpatient care, at an expedited rate which is crucial in recovery. The Lake County FRC has relationships with outside agencies such as Regional Mental Health, Willowtree Therapeutic Services, Mobile Integrated Response Team (MIRT), Heartland Recovery Center, and many more with the goal of reunifying children without compromising their safety.
Our first graduate occurred on March 11, 2021. This graduate was a mother of two young children that are thriving and doing well with a clean and sober parent today. FRC assists families with long-term sobriety by connecting clients with outside support systems, so they have continued support after their FRC case is closed. Under a traditional model, families involved in CHINS matters come to court as infrequently as every three months or longer. Because of the infrequent supervision, families struggling with substance abuse might take too long to get enrolled and engaged in drug treatment services. Infrequent supervision is especially problematic in light of the multiple issues faced by the majority of FRC participants, such as domestic violence, mental health issues, homelessness, unemployment, and lack of healthy support systems. The Lake County FRC only accepts only high-risk, high-needs participants.
Under the FRC model, parents and others involved in a CHINS case with substance abuse issues are seen before a judicial officer on a weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly basis, depending on their recovery stage. Deputy Chief Probation Officer Beth L. Rechlicz is the Court Program Coordinator. Judge Thomas P. Stefaniak Jr hears all Lake County FRC cases.
The FRC includes three phases of treatment, providing a wraparound team approach with intensive services for clients with substance abuse issues. The three phases of treatment are:
• Detoxification from Drugs and Alcohol
• Education/Employment & Coping Skills to Prevent Relapse
• Maintenance of Safe/Stable Housing & Development/Maintenance of the Recovery Environment
The new court collaborates with community partners to provide addiction treatment, mental health, education, and health care. Team members can include the judge, public defender, the Indiana Department of Child Services, guardian ad litem or CASA, and treatment and service providers.