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Washington State Institute for Public Policy
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Family dependency treatment court

Child Welfare
Benefit-cost methods last updated December 2023.  Literature review updated August 2017.
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Family Dependency Treatment Courts (FDTC) are adaptations of drug courts for adult offenders. They provide an alternative to regular Dependency Court for parents whose children were placed in foster care due to parent substance abuse. FDTCs take a collaborative approach to dependency cases, employing teams that include judges, treatment providers, child welfare caseworkers, attorneys, prosecutors and service providers. Parents are quickly referred treatment and compliance with treatment progress is monitored by frequent court appearances. Early in the cases, parents may be required to appear weekly. As parents make progress with the mandated treatment, frequency of hearings is reduced.
For an overview of WSIPP's Benefit-Cost Model, please see this guide. The estimates shown are present value, life cycle benefits and costs. All dollars are expressed in the base year chosen for this analysis (2022). The chance the benefits exceed the costs are derived from a Monte Carlo risk analysis. The details on this, as well as the economic discount rates and other relevant parameters are described in our Technical Documentation.
Benefit-Cost Summary Statistics Per Participant
Benefits to:
Taxpayers ($1,942) Benefits minus costs ($14,664)
Participants ($2,686) Benefit to cost ratio ($1.26)
Others $182 Chance the program will produce
Indirect ($3,724) benefits greater than the costs 9%
Total benefits ($8,170)
Net program cost ($6,494)
Benefits minus cost ($14,664)

^WSIPP’s benefit-cost model does not monetize this outcome.

Meta-analysis is a statistical method to combine the results from separate studies on a program, policy, or topic in order to estimate its effect on an outcome. WSIPP systematically evaluates all credible evaluations we can locate on each topic. The outcomes measured are the types of program impacts that were measured in the research literature (for example, crime or educational attainment). Treatment N represents the total number of individuals or units in the treatment group across the included studies.

An effect size (ES) is a standard metric that summarizes the degree to which a program or policy affects a measured outcome. If the effect size is positive, the outcome increases. If the effect size is negative, the outcome decreases. See Estimating Program Effects Using Effect Sizes for additional information.

Adjusted effect sizes are used to calculate the benefits from our benefit cost model. WSIPP may adjust effect sizes based on methodological characteristics of the study. For example, we may adjust effect sizes when a study has a weak research design or when the program developer is involved in the research. The magnitude of these adjustments varies depending on the topic area.

WSIPP may also adjust the second ES measurement. Research shows the magnitude of some effect sizes decrease over time. For those effect sizes, we estimate outcome-based adjustments which we apply between the first time ES is estimated and the second time ES is estimated. We also report the unadjusted effect size to show the effect sizes before any adjustments have been made. More details about these adjustments can be found in our Technical Documentation.

Meta-Analysis of Program Effects
Outcomes measured Treatment age Primary or secondary participant No. of effect sizes Treatment N Adjusted effect sizes(ES) and standard errors(SE) used in the benefit - cost analysis Unadjusted effect size (random effects model)
First time ES is estimated Second time ES is estimated
ES SE Age ES SE Age ES p-value
28 Primary 2 214 -0.534 0.146 30 -0.534 0.146 40 -0.534 0.001
3 Secondary 2 222 0.131 0.250 5 0.131 0.250 17 0.131 0.601
3 Secondary 4 492 0.283 0.182 5 n/a n/a n/a 0.283 0.119
3 Secondary 2 197 0.038 0.108 5 n/a n/a n/a 0.038 0.721
1In addition to the outcomes measured in the meta-analysis table, WSIPP measures benefits and costs estimated from other outcomes associated with those reported in the evaluation literature. For example, empirical research demonstrates that high school graduation leads to reduced crime. These associated measures provide a more complete picture of the detailed costs and benefits of the program.

2“Others” includes benefits to people other than taxpayers and participants. Depending on the program, it could include reductions in crime victimization, the economic benefits from a more educated workforce, and the benefits from employer-paid health insurance.

3“Indirect benefits” includes estimates of the net changes in the value of a statistical life and net changes in the deadweight costs of taxation.
Detailed Monetary Benefit Estimates Per Participant
Affected outcome: Resulting benefits:1 Benefits accrue to:
Taxpayers Participants Others2 Indirect3 Total
Crime Criminal justice system $190 $0 $414 $95 $699
Subtotals $190 $0 $414 $95 $699
From secondary participant
Child abuse and neglect Criminal justice system ($91) $0 ($176) ($45) ($312)
Child abuse and neglect ($543) ($63) $0 ($271) ($877)
K-12 grade repetition ($12) $0 $0 ($6) ($18)
K-12 special education ($327) $0 $0 ($163) ($490)
Property loss associated with alcohol abuse or dependence $0 $0 $0 $0 $0
Health care associated with PTSD ($53) ($15) ($55) ($27) ($150)
Labor market earnings associated with child abuse & neglect ($1,104) ($2,600) $0 $0 ($3,704)
Mortality associated with child abuse and neglect ($3) ($8) $0 ($59) ($71)
Subtotals ($2,132) ($2,686) ($232) ($572) ($5,622)
Program cost Adjustment for deadweight cost of program $0 $0 $0 ($3,247) ($3,247)
Totals ($1,942) ($2,686) $182 ($3,724) ($8,170)
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Detailed Annual Cost Estimates Per Participant
Annual cost Year dollars Summary
Program costs $10,013 2016 Present value of net program costs (in 2022 dollars) ($6,494)
Comparison costs $4,508 2016 Cost range (+ or -) 20%
WSIPP has estimated that the average traditional dependency case costs $4,508. Based on the frequency of additional hearings for FDTC in Thurston County (Personal communication with Britnee Thornton, Coordinator, Thurston County Family Recovery Court. The program is organized in levels. During the first 2 levels, which last at least 5 months, parents make weekly court appearances. During Level 3, lasting at least 4 months, hearings are bi-weekly. Frequency is reduced to monthly in the final level; for this analysis, we assume parents remain in Level 4 for two months.) a case that closed in the minimum amount of time would require an additional 30 court appearances. Based on estimates of salary of persons presents at hearings, and assuming 15 minutes per appearance, we estimate cost per appearance is $128. We estimate the per participant cost to operate the separate court to be $1,652. (van Wormer, J., Hamilton, Z., & Murphy, S. (2014). Snohomish County adult drug treatment court: Process, outcome and cost-benefit evaluation. Washington State University, unpublished manuscript. Inflated to 2016 dollars.)
The figures shown are estimates of the costs to implement programs in Washington. The comparison group costs reflect either no treatment or treatment as usual, depending on how effect sizes were calculated in the meta-analysis. The cost range reported above reflects potential variation or uncertainty in the cost estimate; more detail can be found in our Technical Documentation.
Benefits Minus Costs
Benefits by Perspective
Taxpayer Benefits by Source of Value
Benefits Minus Costs Over Time (Cumulative Discounted Dollars)
The graph above illustrates the estimated cumulative net benefits per-participant for the first fifty years beyond the initial investment in the program. We present these cash flows in discounted dollars. If the dollars are negative (bars below $0 line), the cumulative benefits do not outweigh the cost of the program up to that point in time. The program breaks even when the dollars reach $0. At this point, the total benefits to participants, taxpayers, and others, are equal to the cost of the program. If the dollars are above $0, the benefits of the program exceed the initial investment.

Citations Used in the Meta-Analysis

Burrus, S.W.M., Mackin, J.R., & Arborn, J.A. (2008). Baltimore City family recovery program (FRP) independent evaluation: Outcome and cost report. Portland, OR: NPC Research

Carey, S.M., Sanders, M.B., Waller, M.S., Burrus, S.W.M., & Aborn, J.A. (2010). Marion county fostering attachment treatment court process, outcome and cost evaluation: Final report., Salem, OR: Oregon Criminal Justice Commission.

Carey, S.M., Sanders, M.B., Waller, M.S., Burrus, S.W.M., & Aborn, J.A. (2010). Jackson county community family court process, outcome and cost evaluation: Final report. Salem, OR: Oregon Criminal Justice Commission.

Chuang, E., Moore, K., Barrett, B., & Young, M.S. (2012). Effect of an integrated family dependency treatment court on child welfare reunification, time to permanency and re-entry rates. Children and Youth Services Review, 34, 9, 1896-1902.