New research has found that mothers reunited with their children after care proceedings in the Family Drug and Alcohol Court (FDAC) are more likely to stay off drugs and alcohol for longer, and their family life less likely to be disrupted when compared with cases heard in ordinary care proceedings.
Over 5 years, researchers followed up cases that had been through the London FDAC and compared them with similar cases going through ordinary care proceedings. A linked study also found the FDAC model is being followed successfully in a growing number of courts, and judges are keen to extend it further.
As a result, the researchers say the London FDAC, the first in the country, has reduced the number of children taken into care because of parental substance misuse compared with those in ordinary care proceedings. To build on this success, the researchers highlight the need for greater support for family reunification after care proceedings finish, and for health and adult services to contribute to funding FDAC alongside children's services.
The first study, which compared FDAC cases with similar cases heard in ordinary care proceedings, found that:
- a significantly higher proportion of FDAC mothers were reunited with their children at the end of proceedings (37% v 25%); and
- experienced significantly less family disruption post-reunification (a combination of relapse, permanent placement change or return to court) over a 3-year period after proceedings ended (51% v 22%).
The study also found that significantly more mothers who went through FDAC:
- stopped misusing substances at the end of proceedings (46% v 30%); and
- for those who had stopped, this cessation was also maintained at significantly higher proportions during the 5-year period after care proceedings ended (58% v 24%)
The linked study, also published today, involved observing 46 court hearings in 10 FDAC courts across the country, and interviewing 12 judges working with FDAC. The observations indicated that the FDAC model is being successfully implemented in different courts around the country, and the judges were unanimous in their support for the FDAC approach.
Judges said it was a 'more humane experience' compared with ordinary care proceedings, because parents were given choices and expected to take responsibility for achieving positive change. There was also support for potentially extending the use of problem-solving courts beyond substance misuse. One judge commented, 'Outcomes are so predictable in ordinary care cases. You go through the motions, needs get assessed, but nothing gets done. It's cruel to people.'
Earlier this week, Sir James Munby, President of the Family Division, published his latest View
, drawing attention to a looming crisis if care cases continue to rise. He said, 'The family court must become, in much of what it does, a problem-solving court. We are all familiar with the excellent and immensely fruitful work being done in ever increasing numbers of cases in the ever expanding network of FDACs.'