Family Recovery Court

The Family Recovery Courts (FRC) are specialty civil dockets that work with families whose children are at risk of abuse or neglect due to parental substance use disorders and/or co-occurring disorders. Any parent involved in a child protection case where an FRC is located may be referred to the FRC. Participation is voluntary. No criminal charges are required.

 Research has shown that a very high proportion of child protection cases involve parental substance use disorders and/or co-occurring disorders. The FRC has helped many parents successfully manage the requirements of a child protection case so that parents are able to stay in treatment for their substance use and/or co-occurring disorder(s). This may lead to reduced time in foster care and expedited permanency plans for children.

Mission and goals of the Family Recovery Court

  • To improve the safety and welfare of children; and
  • Support the recovery of their parents from substance use disorder and/or the management of co-occurring disorders.

The FRC relies on accountability to the court and enhanced access to comprehensive treatment services to help achieve these goals.

Although the court interacts primarily with parents, the best interest of the child is the court’s most important concern. By helping parents, the FRC court helps protect the child and achieve a permanent solution more quickly. 

The comprehensive treatment resources available through the FRC support parents in their recovery and help them make positive changes in their lives. Parents who comply with the requirements of the FRC function better in their families and communities, and are less likely to have future involvement with the courts and the child welfare system than parents who do not participate in an intensive program.

Locations & Case Manager Contact

Augusta District Court
Maine Pretrial Services
Telephone: (207) 623-9677 

Bangor District Court
Maine Pretrial Services
Telephone: (207) 945-4807

Lewiston District Court
Catholic Charities
Telephone: (207) 786-4851

Eligibility

  • 18 years of age or older;
  • Serious substance use disorder and/or co-occurring disorder; and
  • A child or children with an open child protection case with the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS).

When a Referral May be Made

The FRC serves families with open child protection cases. A referral can be made as soon as a case is opened. See Child Protection Cases.

Steps to Apply

  1. Obtain a referral form from the clerk's office where any FRC is located. Complete and submit the form to the FRC case manager. See Locations and Case Manager Contact Information above. 
    Anyone can submit a referral form, including the parent, the parent’s lawyer, the court, or other parties to the case.
  2. The parent attends an information session with the FRC case manager and shadows an FRC session.
  3. If the parent chooses to continue with the application process, the parent signs an agreement and waiver form in court. The waiver allows confidential medical and mental health information to be shared with FRC team members and DHHS.
  4. The parent will be provisionally admitted while a complete assessment is done. When the assessment is completed, the FRC team, made up of the judge, the FRC case manager, the DHHS liaison person, treatment provider(s), and the parent’s lawyer, determines whether the parent will be finally admitted.

Waiver of Confidentiality

In order to participate in an FRC, the parent must voluntarily and knowingly consent to waive all rights of confidentiality established by federal and state laws associated with substance use diagnosis and treatment (42 CFR Part 2) and mental health diagnosis and treatment. This waiver is necessary to facilitate judicial supervision and the sharing of information among treatment providers, the FRC team, and the court.

This information is also shared with DHHS staff and the guardian ad litem (GAL) in the parent’s child protection case and may be brought to the court’s attention in connection with a jeopardy hearing or other court events in the child protection case.

Treatment Services while in the FRC Program

Often parents will already be participating in treatment services when they are referred to the FRC. If so, parents will be able to continue with that provider as long as the provider is willing to work with the FRC. Services may include substance use and co-occurring disorders treatment and medication management, if indicated. If appropriate, parents may receive medication assisted treatment (MAT) such as methadone, Suboxone/Subutex, naltrexone, and Vivitrol from a medical professional. Again, collaboration between the provider or prescriber and the FRC team is important.

If treatment is part of the reunification plan in the parent’s child protection case, these services may be paid for by the State of Maine if the parent has no means of coverage.

Requirements of Parents Who Participate in the Family Recovery Court

The judge and the FRC team meet every other week with parents to discuss progress and make improvements to their services plan. Honesty on the part of the participant is very important. In addition, parents must:

  • Meet weekly with the FRC case manager for status checks;
  • Provide urine samples for frequent, random and observed drug and alcohol tests no fewer than twice per week; 
  • Attend treatment services as recommended by the team;
  • Attend recovery support groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous, as recommended by the team;
  • Take all medication as prescribed;
  • Abstain from alcohol and drugs, unless the drug is prescribed;
  • Change the people, places, and activities that contribute to relapse;
  • Avoid places where alcohol or cannabis is served or drugs are being used; and
  • Work on the reunification plan developed by DHHS and parents in the child protection case.

The length of participation averages 8 to 12 months, but may be longer depending on progress.  
If a parent successfully completes the FRC program, he or she will graduate. If a parent does not meet the expectations of the court, the parent will be terminated from participation. A parent may also choose to withdraw from the FRC at any time.

The end result, which may be withdrawal, termination from participation, or successful completion of the FRC program, will be included in the court file in the child protection case.