The Jennings Circuit Court is pleased to announce that they are developing a problem-solving court in Jennings County which is expected to start in October. The Family Recovery Court is designed to help and provide skills to high-risk, high-need and nonviolent criminal offenders struggling with a substance-use disorder that are involved with Children in Need of Services cases.

Judge Murielle S. Bright began the planning to develop a problem-solving court in Jennings County in September 2021 as the Jennings Circuit Court Judge. The planning finally took root when grant funding was obtained from the state to provide financial resources for the Family Recovery Court through 2022. The Court has already applied for the grant funds to continue through 2023.

“A problem-solving court has been needed in Jennings County for a long time,” said Magistrate Chris Doran. “I am grateful for Judge Bright in starting this program and excited for the opportunity to serve the public and help those in our community that suffer from addiction.”

Doran was sworn in as magistrate on July 1, 2021. He will supervise the court and preside over the weekly hearings. Additionally, Candice Troidl was hired in June 2022 as the Family Recovery Court Coordinator for Jennings Circuit Court. She earned her associate of applied science degree at Ivy Tech for Criminal Justice and her bachelor of applied studies degree at Rasmussen in Criminal Justice Leadership and Management, graduating in 2016. She previously worked as a juvenile probation officer and was a juvenile intake officer at the detention center.

Troidl will oversee the daily operations of Family Recovery Court and work closely with participants to assist them as they progress through the program. “I am super excited. This is a program that Jennings County has needed for some time. Judge Bright and Magistrate Doran have been phenomenal in helping. We, as a team, are all very excited to watch this program grow,” she said.

The Family Recovery Court program has been developed to help parents be the best that they can be for their children and to live a life of recovery. The Family Recovery Court is designed to give participants every chance to reunite their family and join the community as productive and responsible citizens.

Family Recovery Courts apply a non-adversarial, collaborative approach and utilize a multidisciplinary team including a judge or magistrate, Department of Child Services attorney, defense attorneys, case-managers, and treatment providers. They target cases of abuse or neglect wherein the parent or primary caregiver suffers from a substance-use disorder and/or co-occurring disorders. Family Recovery Court teams seek to provide better outcomes for children involved with the child welfare system by providing problem-solving court services to the child’s parent or primary caregiver.

“Participants may have never had the support that is necessary for a lasting change in sobriety,” said Judge Bright. “It is our goal to give these families that support and, at the same time, give accountability because of the nature of family recovery court in conjunction with Child in Need of Services Cases (CHINS).”

The program is voluntary to join. Participants turn their treatment plan over to a Family Recovery Court to manage, support, and hold them accountable in order to reunify them with their children. Family Recovery Courts focus on the parent and include the family in treatment and other ancillary services. Family Recovery Courts utilize incentives and graduated sanctions to reinforce positive behavior and hold participants responsible during their participation in the program.

The Family Recovery Court is a five-phase program that takes approximately 12-18 months to complete. Participants move from level to level as they progress through the program and complete their goals. They are expected to have multiple drug screens per week, access to treatment programs, and weekly hearings.

While defendants on traditional probation likely would not see the judge unless they get into trouble, Family Recovery Court participants must appear before Magistrate Doran and the treatment team every Friday.

“One of the big obstacles that I see for children in need of services cases derives from only coming to court every several months,” said Doran. “The increased participation of the Court through the treatment process helps participants reach their goals and to be held accountable if they do not. We are better able to tailor responses for issues that may occur throughout the cases due to knowing the participants more in-depth than in a traditional court setting.”

The mission of Family Recovery Court is to ensure children have a safe and nurturing environment by focusing on healthy parenting through long-term recovery and timely permanency-planning, which is accomplished by actively and collaboratively intervening to address the drug, alcohol and other service needs of referred families, providing services that are intensive, integrated, and culturally competent.

Approximately 60 counties throughout Indiana have problem-solving courts, like the Family Recovery Court, to assist citizens in their communities. They are governed by Ind. Code 33-23-16 and the Judicial Conference of Indiana Problem-Solving Court Rules. The Indiana Office of Court Services certifies problem-solving courts established in accordance with these statutes and rules.

The Court will be going through a certification meeting on August 4, 2022 to establish the Family Recovery Court under a provisional certificate. The first weekly hearing will take place on October 7, 2022. For additional information about Indiana problem-solving courts and a directory of certified courts, visit http://www.in.gov/judiciary/pscourts/2337.htm.