Who doesn’t want to become a better version of themselves? Ashley Moffatt decided she wanted a better life for herself and signed up for the intensive 18 month program at Coweta County’s Family Treatment Court (FTC) to achieve sobriety and restore her family.
“If I am willing to put the work into it, I can achieve anything” she says after successfully reaching the final phase of FTC. Their son is home again with his parents after being in foster care. Her graduation is on track for this December and her plans then include serving as a peer mentor for others working the program. She knows firsthand the benefits she and her family received by accomplishing the goals of each phase. Her partner Chris started the program shortly after she did and he is on track to graduate as well. From the start of their participation, Ashley and Chris were “unemployed, thinking and behaving like addicts” to now “having jobs, a home and new car because of the choices we made.” She adds FTC offers no guarantees, but provides the tools needed to reach their goals.
Sarina and Josh Rudolph also report improved lives from participating in FTC. Sarina says that “after being honest with myself and working through my issues, I have seen huge improvements. I definitely see how awesome this program is if you are serious about change.” She adds, “I have been able to work through a lot of issues I had from the past and this has helped me to stop living in the past which means I can keep moving forward for a better future.” Both plan to return after graduation and share their experiences with participants working the program. Josh states FTC “has given me a self-confidence I have never had before.”
Families affected by parental substance abuse often face co-occurring problems such as educational challenges, lack of stable employment, mental illness, PTSD, unstable housing and domestic violence. FTC is a collaborative effort between Coweta County Juvenile Court, FTC, Division of Family and Children Services (DFCS), Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA), legal counsel, treatment providers and community resources. In fact, it was Juvenile Court Judge Joseph Wyant who brought FTC to Coweta County in October 2016. Wyant says “If I leave tomorrow, this is what I’m most proud of. It’s a marriage of the drug court and the veterans’ court and the dependency court all in one…and the payoff is so huge. The payoff is that the families are reunited and the kids have their mom and dad again.”
Mandatory requirements for participants include group and individual counseling sessions, random drug screens, nightly curfews, weekly attendance at AA/NA meetings and a weekly program fee. Parenting classes are required by the child protection worker and everyone must find and keep employment in order to graduate. Sanctions are enforced for noncompliance and serve as an accountability component to motivate instead of punish participants. Celebrations and incentives such as gift cards, admission tickets and gas cards encourage compliance. Either having a high school diploma or obtaining a GED is also required. FTC staff encourages additional education. “We try to get them to go to tech school or university and further their education,” reports FTC Accountability Court Manager, Jennifer Barnett. “Most of the people we deal with have suffered childhood trauma and FTC is a holistic treatment program,” adds Barnett. “We help them develop the skills they need instead of just telling them what to do,” says Marlowe Dix, Court Coordinator.
Several optional classes are offered as well including nutrition, budgeting, interviewing, various job skills, trauma training, as well as less traditional courses such as yoga and self-expression through art. After she experienced the mindfulness benefits of yoga in the FTC class, Ashley and her young son practice what he refers to as “yogurt.” Psychiatrist and Senior Fellow at ChildTrauma Academy, Dr. Bruce Perry, reports successful treatment for trauma using yoga, meditation and deep breathing. According to the Mayo Clinic, practicing mindfulness or “focusing on being intensely aware of what you’re sensing and feeling in the moment” is effective at treating several medical conditions like anxiety and depression that may result from trauma but is also effective for anyone to improve pain, high blood pressure and several other health problems. Peter Levine writes in his book Trauma and Memory that traumatic events can “alter a person’s biological, psychological, and social equilibrium to such a degree that the memory of one particular event comes to taint, and dominate, all other experiences, spoiling an appreciation of the present moment.”
Connecting with artistic abilities to express themselves is another opportunity recommended by Coweta’s FTC. Participants may take advantage of the free services of Backstreet Community Arts in downtown Newnan which provides a safe, welcoming, creative environment to anyone who may benefit from the healing powers of art and community. Inside the innovative and brightly colored space is their battle cry “Art Saves Lives” painted on the wall. Ashley utilizes the writer’s corner and painting sessions and Sarina and Josh use mixed media on canvases as well as making leather handiwork. The National Institutes for Health reports better health outcomes for patients engaging in visual arts therapy, expressive writing, music and movement-based creative expression.
Does FTC result in better outcomes for our families? According to the National Drug Court Institute, through these programs “parents are empowered to be involved in decision making, encouraged to engage in prosocial activities, required to become involved in services and activities with their children, and acknowledged for their accomplishments.” Studies have shown that children go back to their families an average of 100 days sooner through FTC programs, reports Barnett. Regarding the financial benefit she adds, “For every dollar spent, the return on investment is $27.” Perhaps Ashley sums it up best: “Now our son can see that no one has to be defined by their bad choices and that at any stage in life they can become self-sufficient.”