Family Drug and Alcohol Court

FDAC What is it?  

A derivative of the USA Family Treatment Drug Court system which involves a more motivational, therapeutic and practical based Court approach to care matters, aiming to improve outcomes for children by targeting the parental lifestyle/drug/ alcohol choices that have put their children at risk of harm. Particularly suited to families with less entrenched problems and a greater capacity to change.  

The pilot

The FDAC pilot ran from January 2008 to March 2012 at the Inner London Family Proceedings Court and was initially funded by government departments and three local authorities, Camden, Islington and Westminster. It now runs as a consortium of five local authorities and the model is beginning to be adopted by courts and local authorities outside London.

 How does the FDAC differ from ordinary care proceedings?

 FDAC is purportedly different because it provides:

 Judicial continuity, Judges stay with a case from first to final hearing.

 Fortnightly court review without lawyers where the judge monitors progress, speaks directly to families and social  workers, keeps parents engaged and motivated, and explores ways of resolving problems.

A specialist, multi-disciplinary team linked to the court. The team provides both assessment of parents’ difficulties and intensive direct work to help overcome these problems. 

It also develops and co-ordinates an intervention plan for parents; helps them access substance misuse, parenting and other services for needs that are often entrenched and complex; advises the court on the prospects of parents overcoming their substance misuse within their child’s timescale; and provides extra support for parents through volunteer parent mentors.

The conclusions/evaluation of the pilot

Full report here

Summary report here

Largely positive though the evaluation is, it seems to us that the FDAC simply shifts the Court/Judiciary's role from determining the legal merits of allegations of risk/harm and proposed plans for removal or supervision to

1) A channel for access to intervention and support services.

2) A mentoring/support service for parents with serious and usually complex personal problems.

Those are not the Courts functions. It is not an extension of Social or Children's Services. Care proceedings should only be arising where those avenues have already been exhausted. Does the judiciary have the time or inclination to take on a quasi -social worker role?  

Demand on drug and alcohol support and intervention services hugely outstrips its availability.Are those support services more readily accessible where the FDAC is involved ? The evaluation of the FDAC clearly concludes that significantly more FDAC parents were offered help and a more joined up across services approach. Can the improved results not then be primarily attributed to availability and co-ordination of support, as much as the courts involvement in the process? 

If those support and intervention services are available to access in any event, the answer is surely to make them available and better co-ordinated before the matter reaches the stage where Court intervention is necessary?

 

 

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