King County Family Treatment Court Evaluation

Principal Investigator: 
Michael Pullmann, Ph.D.
Funding Source: 
King County Superior Court
Project Period: 
January 2006 - December 2014
Research Assistant Professor
Project Summary: 

The Division of Public Behavioral Health and Justice Policy (PBHJP) conducted a three-year evaluation of the KCFTC. Led by Eric J. Bruns, Ph.D. and Michael Pullmann, Ph.D., this evaluation (1) Updated a 2006 process evaluation of the KCFTC by conducting interviews with Court staff and stakeholders; and (2) Conducted a matched-comparison outcomes evaluation of the KCFTC using parent interview and administrative data for KCFTC participants vs. non-participants who enrolled in the regular dependency court. Currently, we are conducting an analysis exploring whether there are disparate outcomes of the treatment court related to race/ethnicity.
King County is one of a growing number of jurisdictions nationally that is looking to build on the promise of the Family Treatment Drug Court model in addressing the needs of families involved in the legal system due to child abuse and neglect charges related to parental substance abuse. King County Family Treatment Court’s (KCFTC) is an alternative court system designed to protect children in the dependency system by active intervention.
The Family Treatment Court (FTC) started in August 2004.  Family Treatment Court is an alternative to regular dependency court and is designed to improve the safety and well-being of children in the dependency system by providing parents access to drug and alcohol treatment, judicial monitoring of their sobriety and individualized services to support the entire family.

Parents voluntarily enter the program and agree to increased court participation, chemical dependency treatment and intense case management in order to reunite with their children.  Case review hearings initially occur every other week and then become less frequent as parents progress through the program.  Incentives are awarded to recognize parents' achievements, and graduated responses are used when parents violate program rules.  It is expected that parents will remain in the FTC between 12 months and two years.  If a parent is unable to engage in services or maintain sobriety, the process has prepared the court for quickly finding the best solution for the children.

Through a collaborative, non-adversarial approach, the Family Treatment Court integrates substance abuse treatment and increased accountability into the process.  The court's first preference is always to help make families whole or to find children a stable environment with their own relatives.  Each family has an FTC team that reviews parents' participation and recommends services.  The team includes: parents' attorneys, assistant attorney general, DSHS social worker, substance abuse counselor, CASA and/or child's attorney, FTC treatment specialist, FTC program manager, and the judge.  This interdisciplinary team is cross-trained and works collaboratively to resolve issues.

Public Health Relevance: 
  • To ensure that children have safe and permanent homes within permanency planning guidelines or sooner;
  • To ensure that families of color have outcomes from dependency cases similar to families not of color;
  • To ensure that parents are better able to care for themselves and their children and seek resources to do so; and
  • To ensure that the cost to society of dependency cases involving substances is reduced.
Juvenile Justice
Additional Reports: 
  • Bruns, E. J., Pullmann, M. D., & Wiggins, E. (2012). Effects of a multidisciplinary family treatment drug court on child and family outcomes: Results of a quasi-experimental study. Child Maltreatment. 17(3), 218-230. DOI: 10.1177/1077559512454216
  • Presentation to UW Education Series for Child Welfare Professionals (April 11, 2012)