Courts can have a positive impact on families affected by the opioid crisis, but traditionally that role has been reactive, occurring after a dependency petition is filed. Increasing reports of maltreatment due to substance use disorders in conjunction with more children entering an overburdened foster care system can produce poor outcomes for children and families. Serving the needs of children and families affected by substance use and misuse can be proactive. Preventative, upstream approaches can decrease the negative impacts on children, decrease the load on formalized systems, and help families stay together while they heal. In working with families at risk for child welfare system involvement, there is a valuable judicial leadership role for the courts within the community. There is also an increasingly recognized role for courts and judges in working with individual at-risk families prior to petition and even prior to child welfare agency involvement. Further, as courts are evaluating their old “business as usual” practices in light of the COVID-19 pandemic and taking a critical look at reengineering their roles, practices, and policies, there are opportunities for courts to strengthen their collaborative roles within their communities to help families at risk.
This webinar will highlight two jurisdictions—Tennessee and Birmingham, Alabama—and the upstream and pre-petition work that their courts have engaged in to better serve families at risk of child welfare system involvement.
The webinar will be moderated by Nora Sydow, Principal Court Management Consultant, National Center for State Courts.
- The Honorable Alan Summers, Jefferson County Family Court, Alabama
- Ms. Stephanie Etheridge, Juvenile Court Manager/Statewide Judicial Safe Baby Court Coordinator, Tennessee Supreme Court and Administrative Office of the Courts