January 17, 2018

Vermont Supreme Court Establishes Judicial Commission On Family Treatment Dockets

Vermont Supreme Court Establishes Judicial Commission On Family Treatment Dockets

In response to the dramatic upsurge in child protection cases fueled by the opioid crisis, the Supreme Court of Vermont announced today the establishment of the Vermont Judicial Commission on Family Treatment Dockets. Members of the Commission include representatives from all three branches of state government, as well as representatives from the private sector. The mission of the Commission will be to work across the justice system to identify the most efficient and effective ways to deliver necessary services, including the involvement of the court, to families with children impacted by the opioid crisis.

"Vermont's courts are seeing more struggling families whose members are in critical need of substance use disorder treatment and services that support long-term recovery," said Patricia Gabel, Vermont's State Court Administrator. "Filings of abuse and neglect cases in the Judiciary's Family Division increased 63% between FY13 and FY16. The increase in these filings has stretched existing resources to the breaking point."

Evidenced-based techniques used in other states may provide ways to strengthen community partnerships and expand comprehensive services to meet the needs of the entire family. These techniques may show promise in promoting family reunification and timely permanency for the children involved in Family Division child protection cases, known as the abuse and neglect docket.

The Commission will identify evidence-based practices and work to identify techniques that may be used by the justice system employing a treatment docket model in family division cases. The issues to be reviewed by the Commission include consideration of risk and need screening and clinical eligibility of parents for treatment docket services; the respective roles and obligations of the court, the Department for Children and Families, States Attorneys, the Office of the Attorney General, defense attorneys, court appointed special advocates known as guardians ad litem, and others; examining the effectiveness of different treatment docket practices; and then evaluating the connection between those practices and the ultimate goal of promoting the best interests of children, including obtaining permanency for abused and neglected children in a timely way.

The Commission will review similar initiatives in courts around the country and make recommendations to the Supreme Court for ways to pilot successful practices, as well as methods for affording statewide access to family treatment docket techniques, if warranted and consistent with the policies of the Court.

The Commission, which will issue an interim report to the Supreme Court by July 1, 2018, and a final report by December 1, 2018, is chaired by Chief Justice Paul Reiber.

Members of the Vermont Judicial Commission On Family Treatment Dockets

Hon. Paul L. Reiber, Chief Justice of the Vermont Supreme Court, Chair
Hon. Karen R. Carroll, Associate Justice, Co-Chair
Hon. Brian Grearson, Chief Superior Judge
Patricia Gabel, State Court Administrator
Theresa Scott, Chief of Trial Court Operations
T.J. Donovan, Attorney General
Mathew Valerio, Defender General
John Campbell, Executive Director, Vermont Association of States Attorneys
Tracy Shriver, Windham County State’s Attorney
Ken Schatz, Commissioner, Department for Children and Families
Karen Shea, Deputy Commissioner Department for Children and Families
Alice R. George, RN, Assistant Judge Addison County
Dr. Frederick C. Holmes, MD, Fairfax, Vermont
Senator Jane Kitchel, Chair of the Senate Committee on Appropriations
Representative Maxine Grad, Chair of the House Committee on the Judiciary
Mary Alice McKenzie, Colchester, VT
Lisa Ventriss, South Burlington, VT