- Juvenile Drug Court
Franklin County Juvenile Drug Court
Franklin County Juvenile Drug Court is Transforming Lives
Franklin County Juvenile Drug Court is only 1 of 7 Juvenile Drug Courts in the State of Virginia. What a privilege for Franklin County, those youth who have gone through the program, and the parents who now feel they have gotten their child back—the one that existed before drugs and alcohol. Recently a parent of a child who graduated from the program wrote, “What do you say to a group of people that worked tirelessly for the better part of two years to save your child? Thank you seems very inadequate”.
The theme of the Franklin County Drug Court Program is “Transforming Lives”. Substance use often is the cover for pain and trauma that has occurred in a person’s life. Substances such as drugs and alcohol numb the feelings associated with that pain and trauma, and so it becomes easy for the cycle of addiction to continue. The Franklin County Juvenile Drug Court Program focuses on healing relationships and strengthening family connections. Frequent drug screens, praise for positive behaviors, and encouragement tend to help youth to become drug and alcohol free. A team of professionals—social workers, a probation officer, attorneys, a police officer, a surveillance officer, and therapists under the guidance of Judge Deanna Stone—develop healthy connections and set appropriate boundaries and consequences when needed. The intensive community based program is a 12 month commitment by a youth (with a substance use diagnosis and a criminal record) and that youth’s parents who participant in parenting groups and therapy as needed.
During the month of May especially, please give consideration to the pain caused by substance use and be thankful that Franklin County has been so fortunate to have a program that can heal the pain and Transform Lives.
History of the Franklin County Juvenile Drug Court
In 2009 under the direction of Judge Sarah Rice and then Commonwealth’s Attorney Cliff Hapgood, the Franklin County Juvenile Drug Court Program was started. The Franklin County Juvenile Drug Court is 1 of 7 Juvenile Drug Courts in the State of Virginia. The goals of the Juvenile Drug Court Program are:
- To stop the use of illegal substances
- To reduce criminal activity
- To focus on academic performance, school attendance, and positive school behavior
- To strengthen family relationships
The Franklin County Juvenile Drug Court operates under the slogan- —Transforming Lives.
Currently, Juvenile Court Judge Deanna Perdue Stone sits on the bench for the Franklin County Juvenile Drug Court. The program operates through a strong partnership with the Office of the Commonwealth’s Attorney. Current Commonwealth’s Attorney A. J. Dudley is the gatekeeper for the program in that he must approve or deny program entry for all the program candidates. In order for a youth to enter into the program, there must be a criminal charge or a CHINS (supervision) petition before the Court AND a substance abuse diagnosis.
The Franklin County Juvenile Drug Court Program is an intense 12 month community based program which focuses on individual treatment for the juvenile participant and his/her parents or custodians.
There are 4 Phases in the program with each phase lasting about 3 months. While in these phases, the youth is receiving and participating in individual therapy, benefiting from the structure and support of probation supervision, submitting to frequent drug screens, maintaining contact with a Surveillance Officer, and attending Unbridled Change’s Equine Therapy and Skill Building Program. Attendance in Drug Court is weekly during Phase I, but is reduced to attendance once every 6 weeks during Phase IV. With the Equine Therapy and Skill Building Program, there is a 3 week rotation with week 1 being just the Drug Court Participants, week 2 being just with the parents so that can learn effective parenting skills, and week 3 being the week the parents and their children come together to address ways to strengthen family relationships.
This is a program that addresses substance abuse patterns and cycles, but also digs deeper into the reasons a youth might be choosing substances to numb out and often distance themselves from their family. This is a program developed to help heal relationships.
The Social Work Department at Ferrum College recently conducted a survey of former participants (youth and parental figures) to evaluate the program. One of the strong points noted by this group was that parent-child relationships had improved.
In July, Franklin County was awarded a grant for $57,563 to assist with the operation of the Juvenile Drug Court Program. This grant was awarded from the Supreme Court of Virginia Drug Treatment Court Docket Program and is at no cost to Franklin County citizens.
The hope of Franklin County Juvenile Drug Court is that each participant and his/her family achieve the above mentioned goals, and that the participant and his/her parents have developed the skills to know how to refrain from using illegal substances or to know how to recover if they do return to using illegal substances at some point.
Comments from former Drug Court Participants
- ”Being able to bond with great kids and their families who have been in my shoes and my parents’—it makes you feel less lonely when someone understands and doesn’t immediately judge you and push you away. I want to show people that you can change and just because you make mistakes doesn’t mean you’re no good anymore…..This experience is something I will never forget.”
- As my friend, I thought you (alcohol) were helping me out through hard times—I thought you were there for me when I needed it. But alcohol eventually turned from friend to foe, causing trouble and family strife. . . . I like myself better when I’m not drinking and I can stay out of trouble. I like myself better when I’m not drinking because my family wants me around more now.”
- “I was an aggressive and out of control teenager addicted to marijuana and alcohol…. I would like to thank my family, my friends, and most importantly the Drug Court team for never giving up on me and always pushing me to do my best”.