A new type of family court will be opening in Stockport this month – the Family Drug and Alcohol Court (FDAC). The first FDAC was established in London in 2008 and several have now opened across the UK.
Its aim is to provide the best opportunity for families to stay together (where appropriate), to support better outcomes for children and families, and to provide practical support, resources, and timely access to therapeutic interventions to parents with substance misuse issues. It is all about trying to solve the problems that have led a local authority to start court proceedings.
The local authority will look at the cases they are taking to court to see which ones are suitable for the FDAC.
A case might be suitable because parental substance misuse is the local authority’s main worry, or one of its main concerns, or because parents are showing real signs that they want to make changes to their life.
The new court has a different approach to standard care proceedings, with specialist judges who review cases every fortnight and a multi-disciplinary team independent of the local authority who will support and assess the families involved.
This team will consist of social workers, substance misuse workers, psychiatrists and therapists. The FDAC team will also work closely with other local housing and domestic abuse teams.
Parents identified for FDAC have a choice as to whether they wish to join, and will have the opportunity to discuss the option with their solicitor.
At the first court hearing, the judge will ask parents whether they wish to do the first FDAC assessment. If the answer is yes, the FDAC processes starts.
Parents who join FDAC are given what is called ‘a trial for change’. This is work with the team and other services to give parents the best possible chance to overcome their problems. At the same time, FDAC tests whether parents can make enough change quickly enough for what their child or children need.
Parents are, however, able to change their mind and withdraw from the FDAC process. In addition, if they are not engaging with the FDAC team nor making the changes required, then they may be removed from FDAC. If parents choose not to join FDAC, or are subsequently removed, the case will go into normal care proceedings instead.
Research from Lancaster and Brunel universities suggests that FDAC gets much better results than normal care proceedings. The research showed that:
- More parents had solved their problems by the end of the case in court;
- More children are able to live with their parents at the end of FDAC proceedings;
- Compared to standard proceedings, FDAC families were 50 per cent more likely to have their children returned at the end of proceedings;
- The changes parents make are more likely to be long-term;
- When children go home, there is less neglect or abuse by parents who have been in FDAC;
- Parents have a better experience in the FDAC court process and have felt they have been given the best chance possible to make the changes necessary.
How we can help
At Bromleys we have the expertise and knowledge to assist you with all manner of child protection matters including care proceedings and the FDAC. Call our dedicated Care Proceedings and Children Services helpline 0161 694 4149 or email our team at firstname.lastname@example.org.