New court program tackles custody and dependency

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After defendant Trevor Summers kidnapped his estranged wife Alisia by climbing through a window at the family home, prosecutors say he planned a murder suicide.

"I did feel many times through the ordeal that this was going to be the end," said Summers.

Trevor left a letter for his five children that said in part, "We will be watching you from heaven."

And while the criminal case moves forward so does the custody battle for all five kids. In the wake such family turmoil there is a brand new approach that aims to get it right, for the sake of the kids.

Hillsborough Circuit Judge Caroline Tesche Arkin is heading up the New Tracks Dependency Pilot Program. The old, one size fits all approach is out the door.

The program aims to diagnose the issue and triage it.

"Thinking about which resources are appropriate and how long a case is going to take given a particular set of challenges that a family might have," explained Arkin.

There are four tracks a dependency case can take. The first is aimed at unifying families quicker with help.

Tracks two and three are for more challenging cases.

The fourth track is the most severe: Terminating parental rights.

Broward County is already doing it.

Magistrate Randi Glick Boven explains, "sometimes parents will tell you, 'I'm not in the position to raise my child at this time. I'd rather my child be raised by my grandmother or sister or my brother,' and so sometimes that is what happens."

Cheryl Williams works one-on-one with the kids. She says it's more than a 9 to 5 job.

"You could go on vacation and you still find yourself thinking about these families. 'What did I not do? What do I need to do to help these families?'" Williams said she often asks herself.

The group of courthouse staff and administrators in this pilot program are training to do just that - help.

Their mission is very clear: Save one child at a time and get them on the right track in life.