At first glance, the numbers look optimistic. After three years of increases in family court cases related to addiction such as child abuse and neglect, numbers were down for fiscal year 2017.
"We thought maybe this is the beginning of a different trend," says Pat Gabel, Vermont’s chief court administrator. "Maybe some of the things people had been doing could make a difference."
That was before Gabel looked at the first six months of statistics for fiscal year 2018, and learned these case numbers had risen sharply once again.
Because child abuse and neglect-type cases are complicated and get first priority, Gabel says, other kinds of cases in the court system get backed up, too.
Additionally, drug crimes, such as drug possession and distribution, were up over the previous year.
A commission tasked with finding ways to expedite these cases is set to offer recommendations to the Supreme court by the end of the year. Gabel says members will consider approaches that encourage more collaboration between advocates for children, advocates for their parents, and the state.