Court programThe Oahu Family Court's new program for juvenile substance abusers keeps close track of its clients.
abusers of drugs
Juvenile Drug Court
participants face a tough-
By Treena Shapiro
Participants in the eight-month Juvenile Drug Court program are monitored by their parents, probation officers, public defenders, therapists and the judge frequently, and often randomly.
The consequences and rewards for their performance in the program are immediate.
"We're hoping that the Juvenile Drug Court provides youth with drug problems with more intensive supervision, faster access to treatment, increased incentives and sanctions that are going to be graduated," Family Court Judge Karen Radius said yesterday.
The Family Court program began in late July and received its first 10 participants over the past two weeks. The court invited the media to watch yesterday's proceeding, provided that the participants were not identified. Four participants appeared before Radius yesterday for their second weekly status update.
Wasting no words, the youths described their sobriety as "fine" and "OK."
One said she was doing well, "clean for the past two (drug tests), but a rough start."
Those who had clean drug tests and attended school received praise and encouragement.
Another teenager, who had refused to take a drug test at school, was put under house detention for the weekend. Someone from court will check up on her to make sure she complies.
Radius does not accept excuses. In this case the girl argued that she was concerned that other students in her school would notice if she had to go into a restroom with gloves on two days in a row.
"We're not about negotiation," Radius told the girl. "When the (probation officer) tells you that it's time to do the test, it's time to do the test. The idea is random drug tests, not anything scheduled."
Program administrator Nathan Foo said that particular test was to be administered because, even though the girl had tested negative the morning before, someone reported that she looked "high" later in the day. The test came as a surprise, and her refusal was treated as a failed test.
The court has received about $900,000 in federal grants to serve youths 12 to 17 who have a current history of substance abuse but no record of violence and sexual offenses. The juveniles are referred by Family Court, prosecutor and public defender's offices, the police, the Health Department and other agencies.
Whereas previously these juveniles would be put on probation and ordered into outpatient or residential substance abuse counseling with infrequent checks, this program is much more intensive.
One of the requirements is that an adult participates with them at every level: the individualized drug treatment programs, family counseling, the sanctions and incentives, and appearances before the judge.
"(We're) trying to get them back on course with their families as well as in their schools," Radius said.
Unlike in adult drug court, these teenagers have to work things out within their families. "They can't pick to just exit and just set up a new life somewhere," she said.