'Holds them accountable:' Kenosha County launches Family Drug Treatment Court

KENOSHA — A new family treatment court in Wisconsin aims to help children by more intensely addressing their parents' drug addiction.

Kenosha County is launching a Family Drug Treatment Court, the Kenosha News reported. The court will have new substance abuse treatment programs for parents who've had their children taken into foster care. Parents will be required to routinely go before a judge to discuss their progress.

"When these parents are in front of a judge frequently — the judge meets with them, encourages, rewards and stays on top of the progress they are making, or holds them accountable or shows some displeasure when they are not making progress — that motivates parents to put in more effort," said Ron Rogers, the director of Kenosha County Children and Family Services.

The goal is to find better ways to handle parents with addiction issues, Rogers said. Treatment will be funded through Medicaid so the county won't be devoting additional county funds to the program, he said.

Annual data reviews of the Child in Need of Protection or Services system have indicated that substance abuse is a key factor in many cases, said Judge Jason Rossell, who handles CHIPS cases. There were more than 150 families with CHIPS cases involving about 290 children during the 2015-2016 period, he said. Almost 60 percent of those cases involved substance abuse.

The program will first be launched as a pilot so officials can monitor data and see if families that go through the program have better outcomes, Rossell said.

"We want to track what we are doing right, or find out whether we are wasting our time here," he said.

More funding may eventually be sought to expand the program's capacity if it proves to be effective, he said.