Deschutes County Presiding Judge Stephen N. Tiktin created a family court within the circuit court jurisdiction, pursuant to ORS 3.405. The purpose of this request is to fund a family court advocate position, who will assist the court in carrying out its statutory responsibility to coordinate services in family court cases, consistent with ORS 3.417.
The family court project received considerable attention between July 1994 and January 1995. The Deschutes County Commission on Children and Families, at Presiding Judge Stephen N. Tiktin’s request, created a task force to recommend methods to implement the requirements contained in ORS 3.417. Under this statute, the presiding judge is authorized to “establish procedures for coordinating all services that may be available to persons who are or who may become parties” in family court proceedings. The task force consisted of members from Children Services Division, Deschutes County Juvenile Department, Deschutes County Mental Health, Commission on Children and Families, and the Judicial Department. Their recommendations were reviewed, discussed in depth, and forwarded to the Commission on Children and Families for consideration. The Local Advisory Council also provided considerable input to the commission before a decision was made. The Commission on Children and Families ultimately adopted several recommendations and the primary one was to create a family court advocate position to implement the provisions of ORS 3.417.
This program enhances existing human service agency efforts. The family court advocate facilitates the development of family plans among human service providers in a collaborative, facilitative and supportive manner. Wehn family court cases are referred to human service agencies, the family court advocate may convene the affected agencies to coordinate services comprehensively.
The family court advocate also assesses the needs of families who are not serviced by an agency, but are at risk. Families seeking abuse prevention restraining orders fall in this category. These families are the primary target population for this project. During 1994, 681 abuse prevention restraining orders were processed by the court. Currently, when a restraining order is issued against an abusive spouse, victims leave the courthouse without the assistance of a trained professional to refer them to appropriate and available services.
GOALS AND BENCH MARKS:
The goals of the project are to:
- Develop an efficient and effective system for providing integrated, family focused prevention and intervention services to at-risk families defined by the family court;
- coordinate available human services and community resources with the Deschutes County family court, both in the context of court proceedings and outside the formal court process.
- Coordinate all services that may be available to persons who are or who may become parties before the family court (see ORS 3.417).
- Assist human service agencies in their collaboration efforts.
- Assist the circuit court judges in viewing litigation in a family focused environment.
- Intervene with at-risk families who do not receive governmental assistance.
- Research, determine and advocate for new programs that support family court litigation.
- Child protection
- Successful completion of a family plan
- Linkage to community services
- Improvement in family functioning
- Decrease family court cases over the long term
- Provide integrated services and effective alternatives to costly court proceedings
PROGRAM DESIGN AND ACTIVITIES:
Research reveals that family members entering the justice system receive services from either multiple agencies or no agency at all. For a variety of reasons, most human service agencies provide services to individual family members and not the family as a whole. There is growing awareness among human service providers, the legislature and the court of the need to address the entire family with a multi-disciplinary approach; to create case plans for families; and to designate a lead agency in complex family matters. Human service providers also acknowledge that many families in the justice environment, as a result of the type of litigation pending before the court, do not receive the benefit of governmental services. Effort must be made to assist these families and to refer them to available community resources.
Now that circuit court integrates families before one judge, family court staff must be expanded to address the issues described above. The duties assigned to the family court advocate, as recommended by the family court task force, would include: court referred coordination of human service providers; facilitate the development of a family plan among human service providers; information exchange between human service providers and the assigned trial judge; evaluate the family needs and refer parties to appropriate prevention or intervention services; investigate the family’s progress; and research, justify and prepare program material for new or enhanced services. (See attached job description.)
To implement this project, the family court task force recommended these strategies:
- Create a work group composed of representatives from multi-disciplinary teams.
- Establish a family service team network.
- Research existing family court cases and discuss the family as a unit.
- Determine family needs and refer them to existing programs.
- Define the type of services that would assist family members but do not currently exist.
- Establish protocols for future referrals.
These strategies have begun and case research is attached to this request. The court plans to recruit and hire a .8 FTE family court advocate by November 1, 1995. The family court advocate would work closely with human service providers and the work group.
The work group mentioned above would be monitored on an ongoing basis with data and outcomes tracked and reviewed at least every six months. Success should be measured by the following:
- client satisfaction
- rate of recidivism within six months to one year
- successful completion of a family plan as developed with the family and endorsed by the family court project partners
- any other criteria developed by the work group and supported by the court.
This project reaches family members engaged in criminal, juvenile, domestic, guardianship and commitment proceedings. This project reaches – all ages, citizens in every geographic area of the county, the low income and wealthy, the low to highly educated, criminal, abused, neglected and families in transition, and a wide range of populations.
INTEGRATION AND COLLABORATION:
There has been extensive input, research and collaboration toward this effort. Project partners include the Deschutes County Circuit Court, Deschutes County Commission on Children and Families, Deschutes County Human Services, Deschutes County Community Corrections (adult and juvenile), the Deschutes Branch of Oregon Children Services Division, and the Deschutes County Board of County Commissioners. These agencies serve as an advisory committee, and provide leadership and services for the program. The family court advocate position is located in the court administrator’s office.
FAMILY INVOLVEMENT AND SUPPORT :
This project should strengthen human service agency efforts and emphasize wellness and healthy development to children and families. It enables human service agencies, with the court’s assistance, to view families in a comprehensive manner. In addition, it allows the court to adjudicate families in a comprehensive fashion and to require treatment and services based upon advice from human service professionals. he human service professionals have endorsed this approach and have agreed to develop policies and procedures to support the family court and the advocate position.
RESOURCES AND COSTS :
To fund this project, $66,153 is required. There is $60,000 available in federal funds. The remaining $6,153 will be absorbed by the trial court. A detailed budget is included below.
|Family Court Advocate||12 mo.||.8||$2,637||$25,315||$43,024||$43,024|
|OPE @ 39%||16,779|
|Total Personal Services||$59,803|
|SERVICES & SUPPLIES|
|State Government Service Charge||N/A|
|Publicity and Publications||100|
|Employee Recruitment and Development||800|
|Total Services & Supplies||$2,450|
|CAPITAL OUTLAY ACQUISITION COSTS|
|Furniture and Fixtures||500|
|Data Processing Hardware||3,000|
|Data Processing Software||400|
|Total Capital Outlay||$3,900|
|.8 FTE Advocate/S&S and Capital||$66,153|