How The University of Baltimore’s Truancy Court Program Integrates Unified Family Court Principles Into Its Problem-Solving Team Strategy for Students and Families in Need
By Amanda Bentley, CFCC Student Fellow 2013-2014
This week marks the beginning of many of my classmates’ placements in CFCC’s Truancy Court Program (TCP). Unlike several of my colleagues, I’m new to the TCP this year and have not yet had the benefit of seeing this program in action. However, as I learn more about the TCP’s team-oriented design, I can’t help but notice how closely this parallels the style adopted by Unified Family Courts.
The TCP takes a holistic approach to family problem-solving, much like a Unified Family Court system. Like Unified Family Courts, the TCP focuses not only on the legal problems a family faces but also on the underlying causes of those problems. A TCP team consists of a qualified and dedicated group of individuals from varying backgrounds who work closely with the TCP families, helping them achieve ALL of their goals (not just the legal ones). A TCP team typically consists of:
- District or Circuit Court Judge or Master
- Law Student
- Social Worker
- School Principal or Administrator
- TCP Coordinator
- TCP Mentor
- Family Members
This list is by no means exhaustive. Similar to a Unified Family Court, the TCP team provides the individualized attention to connect families with necessary resources. This is in sharp contrast to traditional court settings, where underlying family problems are seldom addressed.
On a more personal level, I am, by no means, a stranger to many of the challenges that our local families face. Like many of the students who participate in the TCP, I was the child of a single mom, whose resources were stretched far beyond their limits. The reality of life for us was deciding which utility would be paid and which would be cut off, or how we would put food on the table each night. I truly empathize with the needs of many Baltimore families but also understand that a family’s needs today have become even more complex than those of my childhood. Reflecting back on my own experiences reminds me of the truly life-changing “network” of people that helped my family to become what it is today. The opportunity to share that experience with another family is rewarding, to say the least.
Today’s modern parent often has a lot to contend with: childcare, transportation, behavior issues, mental health, substance abuse, financial struggles, and homelessness, to name a few. The team-based method used in Unified Family Courts and in CFCC’s TCP is an efficient mechanism for addressing those interwoven issues. It’s this team-based holistic approach to the TCP that I am most excited about as we begin a new semester. We have the opportunity to be a part of something that can be a life-changing experience for students and their families and I’m thrilled to see what the semester brings.
How do you think a team-based approach to problem-solving may help or hinder our TCP families? I’d love to read what you think below.