Tompkins County Court
320 North Tioga Street
Ithaca, NY 14850
Wednesdays at 9:30 a.m.
Treatment Court Judge
Honorable John C. Rowley
All visitors must pass through a magnetometer
upon entering the courthouse.
Mon.- Fri. 8:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.
Mindy B. Thomas
Mission Statement & History
The mission of the Tompkins County Family Treatment Court is to provide for the health, safety and permanency of children of substance abusing parents involved in neglect proceedings.
This is accomplished through intensive judicial oversight, the provision of comprehensive services and close collaboration between Family Treatment Court Team members.
The Team provides rapid assessment and referral to services for both children and parents and provides ongoing monitoring of the family.
In doing so, Family Treatment Court ensures that parents and children receive the help and support they need and that a holistic and strength-based approach to success is maintained.
The Court was opened in April 2001 under the supervision of Family Court Judge John C. Rowley and has enjoyed considerable success. FTC utilizes a strength-based approach to motivating parents, encouraging them to focus on improving their lives and the lives of their children.
When a neglect petition is filed in Family Court which contains an allegation that a parent or person legally responsible for a child is abusing drugs or alcohol, the case is automatically scheduled in the Family Treatment Court (FTC) part of Family Court. An initial appearance will be held within three days of the filing. If the respondent consents, an orientation and a substance abuse evaluation will be ordered. The respondent is then required to appear in FTC weekly until a decision is made whether to enter the program.
The respondent will be eligible for participation in FTC if the respondent has a diagnosis of substance abuse or dependence and the respondent has been the primary caregiver for the child and will continue to be a primary placement resource for the child or if the respondent is the significant partner of the child’s primary caregiver.
After the participant has been in the FTC for a period of 90 days, the FTC Team will assess the participant’s continuing eligibility for Family Treatment Court. The assessment will review the following FTC requirements:
- Court attendance
- Commitment to treatment
- Keeping scheduled appointments with FTC Team members
- Progress in remaining abstinent
- Follow through with recommended services
- Commitment to their children
- Recommendations for long term residential treatment
- Decision by participant to arrange alternate permanent custody option
If after the assessment the FTC Team determines that the participant is no longer eligible for FTC the case will be transferred to the regular part of Family Court and the FTC case will be closed. DSS will continue to provide services until the end of the Court order.
Phases of FTC Participation
Once a participant chooses to enter the program, they sign an Order of Adjudication and Disposition and a Participant Contract. This Order will include the requirement that they complete all three Phases of the Family Treatment Court program.
The program takes a minimum of one year to complete. Parents are required to spend at least four months in each of the three program phases. The average time for completion is eighteen months.
FTC utilizes a three phase structure with carefully designed requirements for advancement. Upon program entry, parents begin Phase I. The primary goal of Phase I is to have parents fully engage in treatment and to begin the process of creating a healthier and safer home environment for their children. Progress in treatment is closely monitored and each step forward is applauded. In an effort to build trust, FTC has created a weekly Support Group which is chaired by the mental health liaison. Within this group, participants are free to raise questions or concerns about the FTC program and have the opportunity to hear about the successes and struggles of other participants.
In Phase II, parents must demonstrate both a commitment to living without alcohol or other drugs and insight into the ways in which their addiction negatively affected their family. Parents must actively participate in their children’s lives by attending medical appointments and school functions and, if a child is in counseling, by maintaining contact with the child’s therapist. Verification of attendance at sober support meetings is required and an educational/employment assessment must also be completed.
During Phase III, parents are expected to demonstrate that they have integrated their recovery into their daily life with their children and developed ongoing supports for a sober lifestyle. Goals for safe, appropriate housing and financial stability must be met. Attendance at sober support groups must continue. If the children are returned home to their parents during this phase, the parents must remain in the program for an additional three months to ensure a safe transition.
While the focus on participant’s day-to-day substance abuse recovery and keeping children safe is the core of the FTC mission, a FTC participant must be employed, be engaged in an educational program, or be engaged in employment related activity in order to successfully graduate from the program. The goal is to build long-term life skills that will sustain and enrich the lives of participants and their families after their involvement with the FTC.
Prior to program graduation, parents must submit a written application reflecting on their FTC experience and outlining their plans for remaining sober. Each potential graduate must then attend a graduation review panel conducted by the FTC team.
FTC utilizes a 90-day aftercare policy to provide support and monitoring of graduates during the initial phase of independent recovery efforts. Participants will attend court once during this time and continue to have home visits and reporting with FTC staff.
The FTC program works with families to address recovery needs and improve parenting skills. There are numerous resources in our community to assist with reaching this goal, but our team wanted to offer a program that was designed for parents in early recovery, included their children in the process and was facilitated by professionals that were familiar with our participants.
The Strengthening Families Program (SFP), a SAMSHA Model Program developed by Karol L. Kumpfer in 1982, is a science-based prevention program designed for parents and their school age children. SFP, “ is a 14-session, science-based parenting skills, children's life skills, and family life skills training program specifically designed for high-risk families. Parents and children participate in SFP, both separately and together.” http://www.strengtheningfamiliesprogram.org
FTC staff and other community members have been trained in this curriculum and offer the program to appropriate families. FTC utilizes both the original Strengthening Families Curriculum and the Strengthening Families Program for Parents and Youth.