Vermont Public is independent, community-supported media, serving Vermont with trusted, relevant and essential information. We share stories that bring people together, from every corner of our region. New to Vermont Public? Start here.

© 2024 Vermont Public | 365 Troy Ave. Colchester, VT 05446

Public Files:

For assistance accessing our public files, please contact or call 802-655-9451.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Explore our coverage of government and politics.

As Abuse And Neglect Cases Strain Vermont Courts, A New Commission Looks For Answers

Court officials attribute a 63 percent increase in abuse and neglect cases over a three-year period to the opioid crisis.

Child abuse and neglect cases are overwhelming the Family Division of the Vermont Court system, a situation that Court Administrator Patricia Gabel says, “has stretched existing resources to the breaking point."

For that reason, the state’s Supreme Court has established a commission to find a way to better manage the cases.

Court officials attribute a 63 percent increase in abuse and neglect cases over a three-year period to the opioid crisis.

“It’s not just the number of the cases that is increasing, it’s also the complexity of cases,” says Gabel.

She says courts are often faced with determining whether children should remain with the family or whether it’s better to find a permanent home for them elsewhere. 

Addiction and substance abuse recovery is a process that often involves periods of relapse. 

Gabel says there’s a tension the courts face in weighing the process of a parent’s recovery against the need to provide a child with a stable home environment.

“The highest increase of children being handled by the Department for Children and Families is in the category of children ages 0-5 years,” she says. “For children of those ages, any delay in locating a permanent family environment can have big impacts.”

The newly established commission will look at how the courts can work with other agencies and interested parties to come up with approaches that support long-term recovery and protect children. 

The commission, which is chaired by Chief Justice Paul Reiber and includes representatives from state government and the private sector, will also review efforts taking place in other states to learn which approaches are showing results.

A final report with recommendations is due on Dec. 1.

Steve has been with VPR since 1994, first serving as host of VPR’s public affairs program and then as a reporter, based in Central Vermont. Many VPR listeners recognize Steve for his special reports from Iran, providing a glimpse of this country that is usually hidden from the rest of the world. Prior to working with VPR, Steve served as program director for WNCS for 17 years, and also worked as news director for WCVR in Randolph. A graduate of Northern Arizona University, Steve also worked for stations in Phoenix and Tucson before moving to Vermont in 1972. Steve has been honored multiple times with national and regional Edward R. Murrow Awards for his VPR reporting, including a 2011 win for best documentary for his report, Afghanistan's Other War.
Latest Stories