Kosciusko County Superior Court I Judge David Cates (L) explains the Family Recovery Court to the County Council Thursday. Photo by David Slone, Times-Union.
Kosciusko County Superior Court I Judge David Cates (L) explains the Family Recovery Court to the County Council Thursday. Photo by David Slone, Times-Union.
Without using any county dollars, Kosciusko Superior Court I Judge David Cates is working on creating a Family Recovery Court in the county.

“A Family Recovery Court is a problem-solving court. It would be the third such court in our county. Right now, we partner with Whitley and Noble counties for the veterans court. Judge Reed has a drug court component. And what I want to do is initiate a Family Recovery Court,” Cates told the Kosciusko County Council at its meeting Thursday.

The Family Recovery Court would follow the drug court model except it’s for families of children in need of services.

“Children in need of services are kids who have been abused or neglected,” Cates said.

The Department of Child Services is tasked with reuniting the kids with their families. “Parents ought to parent their own children,” he said.

Cates said the kids need to be back in safe, sober homes with engaged parents.

“The idea is how do we get that to happen as quickly as possible?” he said. “(With) Family Recovery Courts, studies show that reunification as much as two times faster than with a typical CHINS (Child In Need of Services) case. With a CHINS case, I may see these folks every six months and to hold them to task is somewhat difficult with that kind of schedule. Family Recovery Court, it is much more intensive. It would start with me seeing the participants weekly. That takes time.”

The whole process is initiated by a letter to the Indiana Supreme Court, which Cates said he has done. The Indiana Supreme Court responded and said the Family Recovery Court was great and something it encourages, but it didn’t have any money to offer to support it.

“So what I have done – working with the Department of Child Services, with CASA, with public defenders, with service providers – I’ve got agreements that we can move forward with this. And what I’m seeking from you is permission to go to the Community Foundation and the state of Indiana this fall and request funding for this,” Cates told the Council.

“A lot of these folks don’t have much, and to provide them with incentive to participate would be huge. Five dollars, $10 gas card can be a big thing to a lot of these folks. So one of the things we’re going to be seeking is funding from these sources to provide some incentives. Also will be seeking some money to assist in paying a coordinator – not as an employee, I’m not hiring an additional employee. We can get some assistance in that regard, especially from the state, that can be helpful,” Cates said.

He wants to at least give the Family Recovery Court a try and see how it goes.

He said he appreciated the Council’s consideration and noted that the Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative (JDAI) was saving the county $50-$60,000 a year and asked for a chance with the Family Recovery Court.

“I’m not seeking any money from the county,” Cates said.

He said they’ve already approached the Community Foundation and they indicated “there may be” some funds available depending on the parameters of the program.

“The state of Indiana has money for these type of courts. They did not have any money for the 2019 or 2020 fiscal year, but they have said they may have some available beginning with fiscal 2021-22 and we have to apply in the fall of this year,” Cates said.

He’s looking to start the Family Recovery Court in July.

“Obviously, it’s not going to be available to anyone and everyone involved in a CHINS case. It’s going to have to be somebody who is willing to be subject to the sanctions because ... there’s going to be sanctions. If these people don’t participate, they may end up in jail. So there are some severe sanctions for failure to participate once they’re in the program,” Cates said. “But if we can get these kids back, in a home, even if it’s a couple of months faster, that’s huge for those kids.”

Councilwoman Joni Truex suggested Cates see if the K21 Health Foundation was willing to be a part of it.

Councilman Mike Long said he thought it was going to be a “very worthwhile” program and made a motion to approve letting Cates seek grants and funding for the Court. It was unanimously approved.

During his annual report to the Council on the Bowen Center, Bowen Center CEO Kurt Carlson said Bowen Center was proud and privileged to be a part of JDAI and would gladly be a service provider for the Family Recovery Court.

“It’s a privilege to serve,” Carlson said.