District court judges Elaine Bushfan and Nancy Gordon, along with other court officials, stopped by the Department of Social Services' monthly board meeting this morning to build a stronger rapport between the county's drug court program and the agency.
Peter Baker, Durham's drug court director, said both entities work for the best interest of children and families. There are times when children are taken out of a home by DSS due to a parent's substance abuse. Some people end up in drug court as a requirement to get their children back.
Durham's drug court, one of 43 across the state, had 30 referrals in financial year 2008-09 and admitted 15 people into the program, according to drug court numbers. All but one was African-American. The majority were in their 30's with no high school diploma or GED.
About 80 percent of those in the program were kicked out for not following the rules. The majority of those who were not forced out had high percentages of remaining in treatment and court attendance (both 89 percent) along with over 360 hours of community service.
Five people graduated from the program by the end of June. The program graduated three more last week.
"That is what makes the job bearable," Bushfan told the board. "You get a chance to see people broken and you get a chance to see them whole."
Court officials stressed the court's focus on treatment and reuniting families. DSS plans to create a document defining how the two entities can better work together. The board plans to revisit the partnership in March.
"It needs to be a community priority," said Newman Aguiar, board vice-chairman. "How the agencies respond will determine if this is a community priority."