UMKC Law Review


Missouri courts deal in hundreds of thousands of cases each year that involve money, property, and crime, but no category of cases is more important than those dealing with the safety and welfare of children. The collaborative model of family treatment courts was created out of the passion for this responsibility to children and to the families of this state.

Family treatment courts evolved from the adult drug court model, where collaborative efforts found success within the criminal justice system. Family treatment courts are now one of the most expansive improvements conducted in the judicial, child welfare, substance use disorder treatment, and child and family services field. Family treatment courts are a specialized juvenile docket for child abuse or neglect cases where parental substance use is a contributing factor; usually managed by a non-adversarial and multidisciplinary team including judges, prosecutors, court personnel, parent and child attorneys, child protective services, treatment professionals, and other community partners.

Multi-agency professionals must attend to the needs of the children, parents, and other family members; often helping with food stability, housing, employment, transportation, medical and dental needs, and substance use disorder and mental health services. Family treatment courts' biggest strength is in its collaborative, communal, family-centered approach; the community is the cornerstone that defines the climate success or failure. Positive, effective interaction within that community will sustain a family long after the Family treatment court is gone.