3. Signing up to FDAC
The Initial Parenting Assessment Report and Intervention Plan is sent to all parties and presented to the court at the second hearing (usually Week 3 of the proceedings). The report explains the team’s understanding of the problems that the ‘trial for change’ will need to solve and the timescale for doing that inline with the child’s needs and court expectations.
The court gives its authority to the timescales and objectives of the ‘trial for change’ during this second hearing. Parents are invited to sign up to join FDAC and to engage with the plan, the Judge and the FDAC team sign the agreement too.
4. Updating and developing the ‘trial for change’
Subsequent IPMs are held every 4 to 6 weeks, to review, update and develop the ‘trial for change’. Before each meeting the FDAC team reformulates the Intervention Plan on the basis of the parent’s progress and any new information or developments. This iterative process of stopping and reflecting, and revising treatment as needed, is an acknowledged strength of the model.
'It’s the healing; the mental ability to change patterns, that you get from FDAC …FDAC got me where I wanted to be.' (FDAC Parent)
As with the first IPM, all subsequent IPMs are attended by parents, the local authority, the children’s guardian and treatment agencies. Minutes from the meetings are filed with the court before the next fortnightly court review.
4. Regular therapeutic intervention and feedback during the ‘trial for change’
All parents have an FDAC keyworker and they are expected to attend keywork sessions weekly and drug and alcohol testing appointments bi-weekly. Therapeutic keywork sessions are tailored to the parents’ needs and the model utilises the skills and expertise of the FDAC multi-disciplinary team. The keyworker also coordinates provision of services for the parents by other professionals’ agencies, makes sure parents are attending appointments, and gets feedback on the parents’ progress from the network working with the family. Interventions for parents, provided by the FDAC team or by others can include: motivational interviewing, Video Interactive Guidance, Narrative Exposure Therapy, Cognitive Analytic Therapy, substance misuse awareness, family therapy. Parents are also expected to attend suitable group interventions held at FDAC or by other service providers in support of their family’s needs in relation to: parenting, anxiety, domestic abuse.
'The intensity of the relationship that FDAC builds with parents is good. Parents see them as a Team that really is trying to help them keep their child. FDAC can establish that relationship very quickly.' (Social work manager)
In addition to the usual hearings in care proceedings, the FDAC court holds fortnightly reviews without lawyers present. The FDAC keyworker files and circulates a Review Report a few days before the non-lawyer review, which sets out what is going well and not well with the ‘trial for change’ and explores the problems that still need to be resolved for the family. At the end of the review the keyworker files minutes of the non-lawyer review with agreed actions identified for parents and professionals. These non-lawyer reviews, always heard by the FDAC Judge assigned to that case, are a key element of the problem solving approach. They harness the judges’ role as an agent of change - motivating parents whilst reminding them of consequences and timescales.
'At first I didn’t like the judge because he was honest. He was saying it how it was and it was bad. It was horrible. But now I know it was the truth.' (FDAC Mother)
FDAC’s transparent and iterative approach from the beginning is evidenced in feedback as a motivating factor for parents, it offers parents optimism about recovery and change, combined with a realistic understanding of the immense challenge they face. It also provides a forum for holistic problem-solving and decision making throughout proceedings.
'It felt strange to know about the plan all the time. It was fantastic. There’s nothing worse that doing all that work and not knowing.' (FDAC Parent)
5. Coming to the end of proceedings
The aim is for the ‘trial for change’ to last until Week 18 of proceedings. At around this time the FDAC specialist team undertakes a Review Parenting Assessment to advise the court about the outcome of the ‘trial for change’ and to make recommendations. The assessment incorporates and analyses the evidence gathered during the parent’s ‘trial for change’.
'In our very first case I saw the positives of the approach, and not just because the children were returned to the care of their parents midway through proceedings. Seeing the father grow and become more confident and open in the process; seeing both parents actively repair relationships with their social worker; and watching them seek support from the local children’s centres and other local services that previously they would have shied away from for fear of losing their children.
I do not believe that any of this would have been possible without FDAC.' (FDAC Team Manager)
The majority of FDAC cases end within a timescale comparable to ordinary care proceedings. In some cases however FDACs intensive review process can provide clear evidence that parents are unable to provide safe care for their children leading to an early final hearing.
6. Where the ‘trial for change’ extends beyond 26 weeks
In some cases an extension to 26 weeks may be granted by the court. This will be in those cases where parents have made progress but some further evidence is needed before a final order can be made. In these cases the FDAC process of keyworking and non-lawyer reviews will continue.
'We would like to thank you for giving us this great opportunity to work with FDAC and turn our lives around. I can honestly say that we have done that with a lot of hard work, honesty and trust.' (FDAC Parent in a letter to Judge that heard their case)
The work of the National Unit and news from the FDAC sites is available at www.fdac.org.
You can follow the FDAC National Unit on Twitter @FDAC_NU