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Juvenile court receives state certification

By Norwalk Reflector staff • Oct 19, 2018 at 10:00 AM

Huron County families separated by substance abuse have another resource in working toward reunification.

On June 22, the family dependency court program of the Huron County Juvenile Court earned final certification from the Ohio Supreme Court Commission on Specialized Dockets. The program works with parents of children who have been identified as dependent, neglected or abused and removed from their homes as a result of the parents’ substance abuse and addiction or mental illness.

“The idea is to surround these parents with all of the resources they need to achieve and maintain sobriety and compliance with treatment, and then ultimately be reunified as a family,” said probate and juvenile court Judge Timothy Cardwell.

Lindsey Ingram is the coordinator of the family dependency court program.

“Mrs. Ingram has been very effective at being supportive of participants while also ensuring accountability,” Cardwell said.

Parents attend weekly court hearings, submit to random drug screens and participate in regular treatment with local providers. Participants are joined at the weekly court hearings by social workers from the Huron County Department of Job and Family Services, case managers and a guardian ad litem. The juvenile court received support from the Huron County Mental Health and Addiction Services board and commissioners in creating the new program.

In order to receive the certification, the local court had to submit the application, undergo a site visit and provide specific program materials in response to certification standards that went into effect in January 2014.

“Mrs. Ingram and Nate Perani, our intervention court coordinator, were instrumental in the certification process,” Cardwell said.

Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor congratulated Cardwell for receiving the final certification.

“Specialized dockets divert offenders toward criminal justice initiatives that employ tools and tailored services to treat and rehabilitate the offender so they can become productive members of society,” O’Connor said. “Studies have shown this approach works by reducing recidivism while saving tax dollars.”

Specialized dockets are courts dedicated to specific types of offenses or offenders and use a combination of different techniques for holding offenders accountable while also addressing the underlying causes of their behavior. Juvenile court also has operated an intervention court for delinquent youth suffering from addiction or mental illness since 2003. The program is coordinated by Perani.

There are more than 210 specialized dockets in Ohio courts that deal with issues such as:

• Drugs and alcohol

• Mental health

• Domestic violence

• Human trafficking

The standards provide a minimum level of uniform practices for specialized dockets throughout Ohio and allow local courts to innovate and tailor to meet their community’s needs and resources.

The certification requirements include establishing eligibility requirements, evaluating effectiveness of the specialized docket and assembling a treatment team for implementing daily operations of the specialized docket. The team can include licensed treatment providers, law enforcement, court personnel and is headed by the specialized docket judge.

The Commission of Specialized Dockets has 22 members who advise the Supreme Court and its staff regarding the promotion of statewide rules and uniform standards concerning specialized dockets in Ohio courts; the development and delivery of specialized docket services to Ohio courts; and the creation of training programs for judges and court personnel. The commission makes all decisions regarding final certification.

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