The number of child abuse and neglect cases filed in Vermont’s family court has grown exponentially due, in part, to the opioid epidemic. Children five and under represent almost half of the children placed in the care of the Department of Children and Families, with more than half of these children in custody as a result of their parents’ opiate addiction.
In response to the problem, the Vermont Supreme Court created the Vermont Judicial Commission on Family Treatment Dockets. Its members represent all three branches of government, as well as the medical and business communities. As part of its charge, the Commission analyzed the cases filed in Vermont’s family court that deal with child abuse and neglect and considered whether the creation of family treatment dockets would improve outcomes for both children and parents.
In its final report, issued earlier today, the Commission endorsed the use of treatment docket best practices in the abuse and neglect docket and made recommendations to the Supreme Court as to the most appropriate family treatment model for Vermont. The Commission also made recommendations as to services that should be routinely offered when an abuse and neglect case is initiated in a court where a family treatment docket is not available. The Commission recommended the creation of a regional, pilot treatment docket to help offset resource challenges faced by some smaller communities, emphasized the need for a collaborative approach, and recognized the importance of trauma-responsive courts. The Commission also emphasized challenges faced by potential family treatment docket participants and the need for special attention to issues such as hearing times, participant transportation issues, and access to treatment.
A copy of the Commission’s full report can be found here: