Project Description

California The Early Intervention Family Drug Court (EIFDC) was developed as a collaborative project by Sacramento County’s Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) divisions of Child Protective Services and Behavioral Health Services. Although EIFDC began in association with the Superior Court (Juvenile Dependency Division), because of funding constraints in November 2010 the project lost access to courtrooms and judicial oversight. Due to the strength of the collaboration, EIFDC was able to continue and on January 5, 2011 an inaugural EIFDC proceeding was conducted by a hearing officer in a conference room in a county building. The EIFDC program continues to function as a pre-plea or administrative court rather than a formal court calendar or docket leading to a new model of family court programming. Like all Family Drug Courts, the purpose of EIFDC is to protect the safety and welfare of children while providing the resources parents need to become sober, responsible caregivers. EIFDC program components include intensive case management, supervision by a hearing officer, random drug testing and substance use treatment. Results from the program evaluation unequivocally demonstrates the program’s success leading to decrease in trauma for children, an increase in cost savings, and a decrease in case load.

Target Population

Early Intervention Family Drug Court (EIFDC) targeted:

  • The initial EIFDC target population consisted of families in which the mother had been screened for substance use during pregnancy and/or the newborn baby tested positive for substances at the time of delivery. The EIFDC included fathers of substance-exposed infants as part of its target population. 

Major Project Goals

  • Establishing an Early Intervention Family Drug Court where hearings provide the additional structure and accountability for parents while they are provided with case management services and participate in treatment services. Establish linkages for families to individualized parent/child resiliency program and community-based support services such as Celebrating Families! parenting program and Birth and Beyond Family Resource Centers for education and ongoing supportive services. Develop and train staff and partners on project policies and procedures related to the identification, referral and engagement of parents in resiliency, supportive and recovery services. Use multiple venues of internal and external reporting sources (local newspapers, internal newsletters and presentations) to dissemination of up to date information on positive outcomes and testimonies of personal successes. Monitor results of inter-agency collaboration through regular meetings of committees to discuss program operations /effectiveness, evaluation reports and identify areas needing improvement. Evaluation data and findings are shared regularly to identify areas needing improvements and accomplishments.

Key Major Program Services

Case Management and In-Home Services

  • Intensive/Coordinated Case Management
  • “Regular” or “Traditional” In-Home Services

Parenting/Family Strengthening

  • Standard and Enhanced Parenting Skills Training
  • Evidence-Based Parenting or Family Strengthening Program – Celebrating Families

Engagement/Involvement of Fathers

  • Targeted Outreach

Substance Abuse Treatment for Adults

  • Intensive Outpatient – Matrix Model; Non-Intensive Outpatient or Other Step-Down; Aftercare/Continuing Care/Recovery Community Support Services

Specialized Outreach, Engagement and Retention

  • Cognitive Behavioral Strategies – Motivational Interviewing; Recovery Coach/Specialist; Peer/Parent Mentor

Screening and Assessment – Child Welfare and Other Children’s Issues

  • Screening and Assessment for Child Welfare Issues
  • Other Specialized Child Screening and Assessment – Developmental

Screening and Assessment – Substance Use and Other Adult Issues

  • Screening and Assessment for Substance Use Disorders
  • Other Specialized Adult Screening and Assessment – Psycho-Social

Children’s Services

  • Developmental Services
  • Mental Health Counseling

Cross-Systems/Interagency Collaboration

  • Clinical and Program Training; Cross-systems Policies and Procedures; Regular Joint Case Staffing Meetings; Cross-systems Information Sharing and Data Analysis; Partner Meetings

Partner Agencies and Organizations

The Early Intervention Family Drug Court (EIFDC) Project includes the following partners:

Child Welfare

  • Regional/County Child Welfare Agency

Substance Abuse

  • Regional/County Substance Abuse Agency; Substance Abuse Treatment Agency/Provider


  • Family Treatment Drug Court (FTDC)

Criminal Justice, Law Enforcement, Legal and Related Organizations

  • Attorneys

Mental Health and Health Services

  • Mental Health Services Providers; County Public Health


  • Early Childhood Council/Coalition

Other Community and Child and Family Services

  • Home Visiting Agency/Services Provider

Other Evaluation and Training

  • Evaluator (University-Affiliated or Other)

Performance Indicators

Children Remain at Home

EIFDC children (92.1%) were significantly more likely to remain in-home through case closure than comparison children (69.5%). Put another way, just 7.9% of EIFDC children were removed from their homes prior to case closure, compared to 30.5% of similar children who did not participate in EIFDC. This finding is fundamental to one of the main goals of EIFDC, that is, participation in the program will reduce the rate of removal, allowing children to remain at home.

Occurrence/Recurrence of Maltreatment

Recurrence of maltreatment is defined as the percentage of children who had an initial occurrence and/or recurrence of substantiated child maltreatment after enrolling in the RPG program at intervals ranging from six to 24 months after RPG entry.

Access to Treatment

Of the 775 EIFDC parents who entered substance abuse treatment, 9.5% did so prior to entry into the EIFDC program, 2.1% began treatment the day they started EIFDC, and 86.8% entered treatment following enrollment in the EIFDC program. 

Retention in Treatment

EIFDC (68.0%) participants were no more likely to complete treatment than comparison (69.0%) participants. EIFDC parents stayed in treatment significantly longer (M= 131.6 days), however, than parents in the historical comparison condition (M= 102.7 days); F (1, 463) = 9.422, p= .002.

Sustainability Status

The Sacramento EIFDC collaborative team was able to sustain all collaborative practices and services to families. Child Welfare has continued funding four Recovery Specialist positions, has provided the space for weekly administrative hearings, has funded a half time Senior Office Assistance to help with data entry, and other duties in the weekly assembly of the administrative court.


Project Details

  • Lead Agency:
    Sacramento Department of Health and Human Services
  • Geographic Area and Congressional District Served:
    Sacramento County; Congressional District 3 and 5
  • Federal Grant:
    $500,000/5 years
  • Evaluation Design and Comparison Group Type:
    Quasi-experimental, Historical, Matched Population-Level, Some specialized non-RPG services
  • Proposed Number Served (5 years):
    Children: 1,274
    Adults: 892
    Families: 729