DFCS Online Policies & Procedures

  DFCS Online Policies & Procedures

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Handbook 1: Court Related Issues
9-3.3 Family Wellness Court (FWC)
Court Related Issues
9-3.3  Family Wellness Court
The Family Wellness Court (FWC) Team
DFCS Participation in FWC
Criteria for Referral to FWC
FWC Referral and Court Procedures
Family Team Meeting (FTM)
Services Provided to FWC Participants
Expectations of FWC Participants
How FWC and the Dependency Court Work Together
Continuing Social Worker's Role in FWC
FWC Compliance Reviews
How Long Does a Family Remain in Family Wellness Court

Reference Points
Effective Date: TBA
Last Updated: 8/26/09
 Non CWS/CMS Forms:
MS Word 300 Petition Worksheet
MS Word DDTC/FWC and DDTC Case Management Referral (SCZ 131)
MS Word Family Team Meeting (FTM) Case Plan Recommendations (SCZ843)
 CWS/CMS Forms:
bullet Service Management Section: Contact Notes


The Family Wellness Court for Infants and Toddlers (FWC) is a collaboration between the Santa Clara County Social Services Agency(SSA), Superior Court, the Department of Alcohol and Drug Services (DADS), the Mental Health Department, County Counsel, the District Attorney's Office, and First 5 Santa Clara County.  The target population is parents with children ages 0 to 3 whose abuse of methamphetamine and other substances have placed their children in or at risk of out-of-home placement.  FWC began in March 2008 to enhance and expand the existing Dependency Drug Treatment Court (DDTC).

The FWC primary goals for the target population of mothers and children are:

  • Early identification of and intervention for parents;
  • Rapid engagement and successful retention in treatment and care;
  • Reduction in abuse of methamphetamines among pregnant woman;
  • Early identification of an intervention for developmental delays, disabilities, and concerns for children 0-3 whose parents come before the Dependency Drug Treatment Court (DDTC);
  • The creation of a comprehensive system of care across all systems serving children who are in or at risk of out-of-home placement as a result of parents' methamphetamine and other substance abuse.
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The Family Wellness Court (FWC) Team  

The Family Wellness Court (FWC) is led by the drug court team (the Team), a group of professionals and volunteers who work together with the juvenile court to devise case plans for clients and to monitor the clients' progress while the FWC case is open.  The Team also makes administrative decisions concerning FWC operations.  The members of the Team include:

  • A Judge of the Juvenile Dependency Court
  • A Superior Court Resource Coordinator
  • A Substance Abuse Assessor from DADS
  • One Drug Treatment Counselor from DADS
  • The DFCS Social Worker assigned to the case
  • Two to four attorneys from the Dependency Advocacy Center representing parents
  • One or more paralegals from the Dependency Advocacy Center representing parents
  • One or more attorneys from Legal Advocates for Children and Youth (LACY) representing children
  • One attorney from the Office of County Counsel representing social workers
  • The Mentor Parents Coordinator
  • A Domestic Violence Specialist
  • A Community Resource Specialist  (Shared with DDTC)
  • A FIRST 5 Santa Clara County Program Specialist
  • One or more  representatives from the Court Appointed Child Advocate (CASA) program
  • A Courtroom Clerk
  • An Early Childhood Mental Health Specialist
  • A Mental Health Therapist for Parents
  • A Social Worker Court Liaison
  • An Eligibility Worker

Other persons come from time to time to observe the court process and to give information regarding specific cases.  Those individuals include mentor parents, volunteers from the community, service providers, members of the faith community, and others.  They are not considered members of The Team, although their input is valued.

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DFCS Participation in Family Wellness Court  

As part of the Family Wellness Court collaborative, Department of Family and Children's Services (DFCS)social workers:

  • Participate in identifying parents with substance abuse problems at an early stage of the court dependency process;
  • Ensure that a substance abuse assessment becomes part of the case plan for the parent in the court dependency process;
  • Fully engage parents in their service plan;
  • Are part of the Family Wellness Court Team (FWCT);
  • Work with the FWCT, family members, and the family's support system to develop the initial case plan via a Family Team Meeting;
  • Provide services or referral to services that will be effective in the rehabilitation of substance abusing parents that meet the best interests of their children;
  • Report to the court on the parents’ drug treatment progress; and
  • Work collaboratively with project partners to provide appropriate supports and services for children affected by their parent’s substance abuse.
  • Attends Family Compliance Reviews and all FWC staffings of the case whenever possible.


The DFCS court liaison:

  • Sits in when the social worker is unable to attend.

  • Follows up on issues that need to be brought to the social workers attention.

  • Relays information between the court and the supervising social worker and DFCS staff.

  • Researches procedures in assessing client services provided by or contracted with the Social Services Agency.

The Social Services Agency eligibility worker:

  • Sits in at the court hearings.

  • Meets with the parents to connect them with benefits.

  • Monitors the benefits they are receiving and those for which they are eligible.
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Criteria for Referral to FWC  

Criteria for assignment to Family Wellness Court by court administration is as follows:

  • The parent has given birth to an infant that has been exposed to methamphetamine or other substance abuse during the pregnancy


The parent has a child under the age of three that was either born drug exposed or has been raised in a substance abuse afflicted environment with documented abuse and/or neglect;


  • The parent does not demonstrate intractable mental health issues as presented in the filed petition;


  • The parent is not likely to face long term incarceration.
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FWC Referral and Court Procedures  

All cases involving a child between the ages of 0-3 in which an allegation of drug involvement is included in the petition are calendared for juvenile dependency court Department 70. 

The DI social worker:

  • Checks the box on the Petition Worksheet to indicate 0 through 3 years (Drug Allegations).   
    • If that box is checked on the worksheet, DI clerical ensures that the matter is set in Department 70.
  • Proceeds with the investigation, writing the 300 Petition, and preparing the Dependency Initial Hearing Report and the subsequent Jurisdictional/Dispositional Hearing Report with recommendations the same as with any other case.

At the Initial Petition Hearing, an assessment as to whether a family meets the criteria for Family Wellness Court is made by the Family Wellness Court coordinator, the judge, and the attorneys.  A decision is made at that hearing whether to add the case to Family Wellness Court.

If a case is not added to FWC at the Initial Petition Hearing, it may be added to FWC at the Jurisdictional Hearing if:

  • The parents did not appear at the Initial Hearing but are present at the Jurisdictional Hearing;
  • One or both parents were incarcerated at the Initial Hearing and are out of custody at the time of the Jurisdictional Hearing; or
  • The initial assessment of the parents' mental health issues are determined to be minimal.

A case may be add at an even later Status Review Hearing if the above conditions are not met at the Intial Petition Hearing or Jurisdictional Hearing if requested by the parent's attorney or social worker.

If the petition is submitted to by the parents at the Jurisdictional Hearing. a Family Team Meeting (FTM) is scheduled prior to the Dispositional Hearing.  At the FTM, family members and FWC agency partners collaboratively establish an FWC case plan.  

If the parents do not submit to the petition at the Jurisdictional Hearing or opt for mediation rather than an FTM, the case is set for a FWC staffing prior to the Dispositional Hearing.  In those cases, the FWC orientation follows the Dispositional hearing.

The parent receives a Department of Alcohol and Drugs Services (DADS) assessment the first day that he or she attends court. The parent is asked to attend AA/NA meetings, cooperate with the social worker, and follow-up with the recommendations of the DADS' assessment. 

At the Dispositional Hearing:

  • The FWC case plan, which is based on the FTM Recommendations, is adopted and placed in the FWC case file.
  • Both parents are welcomed into Family Wellness Court.
  • The court sets a separate FWC Review for each parent. 

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Family Team Meeting (FTM)  

The Family Team Meeting (FTM) is held in order for all parties to participate in the development of the case plan for the family.  It is recommended that, if there are placement planning issued to be resolved, they be resolved in a Team Decision Making Meeting (TDM) prior to the FTM.

  • A Family Team Meeting (FTM) is scheduled for every Family Wellness Court  (FWC) case. 
  • The FTM is held between the Jurisdictional and Dispositional Hearings. 
  • The FTM participants include the parent(s), social worker, agency partners, and the parents' support network.
  • The FTM date is set by the court.

The FWC coordinator:

  • Reads the FTM calendar.
  • Sends an email notice of the FTM to all participants with the:
    • Case name
    • Date of the jurisdictional hearing
    • Date of the meeting
    • Dispositional hearing date.

The DFCS Joint Decision Making (JDM) specialist:

  • Sets up a FTM folder that includes all the initial assessments from the FWC providers.
  • Contacts the social worker to discuss possible needs for an interpreter and child care and to ask about any safety concerns.
    • If domestic violence has been present, the parents will be scheduled for separate FTMs or special arrangements will be made.

The social worker:

  • Contacts the parents and family members that the parents wish to invite to tell them the date, time, and location of the FTM.
    • The social worker advises the parents that young children are not invited to participate in the FTM.
  • Notifies the social work supervisor and pre-dispo social worker of the FTM.
    • Social work supervisors and pre-dispo social workers are encouraged to attend FTMs.

At the FTM:

  • A FTM Case Plan Recommendation form is filled out during the meeting with a list of recommended services and actions for the parent to complete. 
    • Each participant in the meeting gets a copy of the Case Plan Recommendations. 
    • The social worker attaches the Case Plan Recommendations to the Dispositional Hearing court report along with the CWS/CMS case plan.
  • If the parents refuse to participate in the FTM, the case automatically goes to court mediation. 
  • If one parent is incarcerated, the FTM may proceed with just the other parent present.

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Services Provided to FWC Participants  

The Family Wellness Court team provides to parents and/or children:

  • Legal representation
  • Early drug and alcohol assessment and treatment
  • Mentor Parent support from successful graduates of the Dependency Drug Treatment Court
  • Domestic violence advocacy and services
  • Eligibility under an SSA Director's Exception, which waives financial eligibility, to receive General Assistance for up to three (3) months
  • Limited funding to assist with barriers to case plan completion
  • Linkages to employment and benefits services
  • Therapeutic services
  • Pregnancy prevention education
  • Comprehensive developmental and behavioral screening, assessment and interventions for all children
  • Referrals to child appointed special advocates (CASA's) for many children
  • Linkages to health coverage and primary care physicians
  • Access to a wide array of parenting workshops
  • Home visitation
  • Early care and education services
  • Oral health care for children and some limited dental services for adults
  • A wide range of age appropriate community activities
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Expectations of FWC Participants  

At the first FWC Review, the parents are welcomed, and an orientation is given to inform the parents what the Team will expect of them.  The expectations are related to the Team’s belief as to the best plan for the client. The expectations are written into the FWC treatment plan which The Team oversees.  The treatment plan usually includes conditions such as:

  • Where the client will live
  • What treatment program the client will be enrolled in
  • The level of the client's participation in AA/NA or Health Realization.
  • Securing a same sex sponsor (for AA/NA)
  • Completing the 12 Steps (for AA/NA)
  • Regular drug testing
  • People/places to avoid
  • Limitations on employment
  • Mental health support if necessary
  • Domestic violence support if necessary
  • How often the client will return to court
  • Completion of special assignments the Team may give to the client
  • The client being honest with the Team
  • Identified support persons the client may rely on at any time
  • Various case specific tasks such as getting a driver's license and clearing up old warrants
  • A relapse prevention plan
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How FWC and the Dependency Court Work Together  

In Family Wellness Court, court orders are not made regarding the underlying dependency case.  At each FWC Review, the Team may discuss all issues related to the case; however, dependency issues such as increasing visitation or return of a child to parental custody are legal issues and cannot be modified at a FWC Review.  The parents' attorneys have notice of the issue, and it is their responsibility to bring up the issue at the next dependency hearing or put it on the dependency calendar for discussion. 

As the Family Wellness Court case proceeds, the dependency case also proceeds through the dependency court system consistent with the Welfare and Institutions Code, including Initial Hearing, Jurisdictional Hearing, Dispositional Hearing, Six Month Status Review and Twelve Month Permanency Planning Hearing.  If the parent does not reunify with the child, the dependency case is set for a Permanency Planning Hearing.  If the child is returned to the parent,the parent and child receive Family Maintenance Services (FMS) for up to one year.  If the child was never removed from the parent, the family likely receives FMS for up to one year.  FWC Compliance Reviews occur as the Team deems appropriate throughout the life of the dependency case.

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Continuing Social Worker's Role in FWC  

With each drug related case, a 45-Day FWC Review is set subsequent to disposition.  At the 45-Day Review, the transfer of the case to the Continuing social worker is confirmed. 

At this juncture, the Continuing social worker:

  • Prepares the 45-Day Case Plan Review Report
    • The report summarizes the parents' progress in services.

  • Refers Family Wellness Court clients to therapy using the DDTC/FWC and DDTC Case Management Referral (SCZ 131) when a licensed clinician has not already been assigned by the Department of Alcohol and Drug Services (DADS).
    • The social worker submits the form to the therapist listed on the form.  The therapist confirms assignment and contacts the client to begin services.
      • Therapy focuses on the client's mental health needs, is short-term, and is behavioral in nature.

Social workers are encouraged to attend Family Compliance Reviews and all Team staffings of the case.

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FWC Compliance Reviews  

The client is expected to attend Family Wellness Court Compliance Reviews on a regular basis.  These Reviews are usually held on Tuesdays in Department 70.  Social workers are encouraged to attend the Reviews.  The Reviews are not recorded by a certified court reporter, and the only record of these hearings is a minute order noting that the client appeared.  Prior to the actual Review, each client’s attorney talks to his or her client about the client's progress.  The client is then brought before the court on a one-by-one basis to discuss his or her progress.  At the Review, the Team members have a number of reports regarding the client's progress; these reports may include a social worker’s report, a treatment status report (TSR) from a treatment provider, chemical testing results, and other information from a variety of sources.  The client is expected to bring in his or her AA/NA slips and/or proof of attendance at Health Realization classes.  The client may also be asked to bring other completed documents and completed assignments to give to the court, such as essays that the Team has assigned, letters from sponsors, or progress reports on specific assignments.

At the end of the Compliance Review, the Team selects a new Review date, which may be set as soon as the following day or as far out as four weeks, depending on the client’s progress.  Upon leaving the Review, the parent receives a reminder sheet regarding information about the Team’s expectations and a reminder of the next Compliance Review.  Emergency contact information for various agencies in Santa Clara County can also be found on the back of the parents' reminder sheets.


A participant may drop by court anytime prior to their new Review date even if they are not on calendar.  Upon the client's check in, if the parent's attorney and/or mentor is not present, the court personnel is asked to call the courtroom.  In the event the Judge or Resource coordinator is unavailable, the parent receives a pre-written letter which provides them with several options of what to do. 

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How Long Does a Family Remain in Family Wellness Court   A Family Wellness Court case stays in Family Wellness Court until the child welfare case is closed.  If a parent who is accepted into Family Wellness Court subsequently becomes incarcerated or discontinues participating, she or he may reengage with Family Wellness Court at any time.
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