Iowa’s getting half a million dollars in federal money in each of the next five years to expand family drug courts here. Gail Berber is director of children’s justice in the judicial branch of state government.
"Meth and other drugs have affected about 70 percent of our cases," she says. There are already two family drug courts in Iowa — in Polk and Wapello Counties. The grant will expand those and open new ones in Linn and Scott Counties, as well as a new northwest Iowa family drug court to serve residents in Woodbury, Cherokee and Ida Counties.
The goal of family drug courts is to get drug-addicted parents into treatment so they can have a better chance of retaining custody of their kids. "Research has really demonstrated that a family drug court approach has been very successful in helping those parents recover, become sober…and then be able to provide adequately for their children," Berber says.
Shifting many non-violent drug offenders into a separate court helps the entire system, according to Berber. "Depending on what statistics you look at (Iowa) is either third or eighth in the nation for methamphetamine use and in dependency court which are cases regarding child abuse and neglect, about 70 percent of our cases statewide have substance abuse of the parents or caretakers as one of the primary problems that got them involved with the Department of Human Services and the child protection system and the court system," Berber says.
Berber estimates another 200 Iowa families will go through the family drug courts here because of the expansion.