This news story was covered by the BBC News in February and shared the good news that family drug and alcohol courts are to be extended in England 🙂
Courts which help parents deal with drug or alcohol addiction so they can keep their children are to be opened in more areas of England.
London has had a Family Drug and Alcohol Court for seven years, and courts have opened more recently in Gloucestershire and Milton Keynes. More will now open in areas including East Sussex, Kent and Medway, Plymouth, Torbay and Exeter, and West Yorkshire. Funding for the expansion comes from the Department for Education.
Most families that come into care proceedings have at least one parent with a drink or drug problem. Unlike the traditional family court, the FDAC has its own team of experts and doctors – it is often described as a “therapeutic” process. Parents come up before the court every fortnight, seeing the same judge every time.
Usually their children are placed temporarily with other family members or in foster care, while the parents concentrate on their detox, therapy and treatments – an intensive programme usually taking 26 weeks. They undergo regular testing to make sure they are not secretly drinking or taking drugs.
An evaluation last year of the London FDAC by Brunel University, funded by the Nuffield Foundation, found 35% of mothers managed to kick their addictions, so their children could be returned safely to them, compared with 19% of mothers who go through ordinary family courts. However, the sample group was relatively small: just over 200 families in all.
The London FDAC only sits once a week, and deals with a relatively small number of cases, about 30 a year at the moment. Sir James Munby, president of the Family Division of the High Court, said: “I consider FDAC as one of the most important and innovative developments in public family law in decades.
“I am a strong supporter and believe that its combination of therapy, offered by the multi-disciplinary team, and adjudication and direction using the authority of the court is the right approach for parents suffering from addiction.” He added: “The process delivers better outcomes for the children and the parents subject to it and achieves this in a manner which respects the humanity of the parents.”
This FDAC extension is being funded by a £2.5m grant from the Department for Education. Children and Family Minister Edward Timpson MP said: “Since 2008, the FDAC has thrown an invaluable lifeline to hundreds upon hundreds of families.” He said extending its work would deliver “life-changing results for families across the country”.