CYNTHIA McFADDEN AND "PRIMETIME" GO INSIDE FAMILY COURT FOR A REMARKABLE LOOK AT THE DAILY DECISIONS THAT CHANGE THE LIVES OF KIDS AND FAMILIES ON THE BRINK, ON "PRIMETIME," THURSDAY, AUGUST 18
Every day in family courts across the country, judges are asked to make life-altering decisions about tens of thousands of families in turmoil - decisions that could determine the fate of more than a million children whose lives often hang in the balance. In a revealing hour-long report, a result of six months of extraordinary access, "Primetime" cameras and co-anchor Cynthia McFadden go inside the family court system in Louisville, KY, for a rare look at the process, as judges, attorneys, guardians and social workers try to bring families back from the brink and save at-risk kids from becoming lost forever. "Primetime" airs THURSDAY, AUGUST 18 (10:00-11:00 p.m., ET) on the ABC Television Network.
More than five thousand families end up in Louisville's Jefferson County courthouse each year. Among the issues the court handles are abuse and neglect cases, custody disputes and the cases of out-of-control kids who are often just one step away from juvenile court. Louisville's innovative court system, which assigns judges to specific families, is considered a model for the rest of the country. Yet it is faced with busy dockets and all of the problems that challenge every family court -- poverty, substance abuse and the inability of parents to adequately care for their children. Judges must make quick decisions, often with less information than they would like, about where these children should live.
One of the cases before the court is that of nine-year-old Nathan, who says he's left alone for long periods of time and sometimes goes hungry. A judge must decide whether Nathan's mother is a fit parent, or whether Nathan should be sent to live with his biological father, who has been largely absent from his life so far and appears to have some problems of his own. Nathan explains to McFadden how the uncertainty about his future and the strife between his parents has affected him.
In another case, a mother who has lost control of her kids turns to the court for help. Both of Bonnie's teenaged daughters have ongoing truancy issues and defy her at every turn. A court-appointed family counselor from a private agency confronts Bonnie, whose inability to keep her house orderly is symptomatic of her overall loss of control, about her need to change her attitude as well. A judge gives the troubled family a month to turn things around. Otherwise the girls will be sent to foster homes.
Both cases illustrate the typical challenges facing the dedicated judges, lawyers and advocates of the family court. There are no perfect solutions to these families' complex problems. There are, however, some admittedly flawed choices that can sometimes mean the difference between certain disaster and the hope of a better life.
DIANE SAWYER, CHRIS CUOMO, CYNTHIA McFADDEN and JOHN QUIQONES are the anchors of "Primetime." DAVID SLOAN is the executive producer.