Who this service is for
This service is for families where substance misuse problems are threatening their ability to remain together and care proceedings are underway to remove the children. The service is currently offered to families referred via Camden, Islington or Westminster Local Authorities only.
What is special about this service?
This is the UK’s first ever Family Drug and Alcohol Court (FDAC). The aim of the FDAC is to help parents stabilise/stop using drugs/alcohol and, where possible, to keep families together.
Instead of a normal care proceedings court process, a family chosen for the FDAC will go through a slightly different route, with more regular court hearings and the same judge throughout the process.
The process has been set up specifically to help tackle drug or alcohol problems. The process involves co-ordinating a range of services so that the family’s needs, concerns and strengths are all taken into account, with everyone working towards the best possible outcome for the children - a stable and safe family that is able to stay together.
The main aims of the project are:
- to test out whether the FDAC model improves outcomes for children, in terms of either rehabilitation or earlier placement outside the family if parents fail to engage
- to determine whether more timely decision-making for the most vulnerable children takes place
- to see whether parents are successful in controlling or giving up their substance misuse and whether there is greater engagement and retention with substance misuse services. The aim is to get parents engaged with services and not to go through a range of assessments.
- to increase the court’s confidence in making decisions without the need for reports from a wide range of external experts. The aim is for fewer requests for expert reports and fewer repeated assessments.
Outcomes so far have shown a number of positive results, including:
- parents graduating from the programme have successfully engaged with treatment, stayed clean and have remained with their children
- children of parents unable to consistently stay off drugs/alcohol because of complex problems have been removed from dangerous environments quickly, and moved to stable placements
- parents who have had their children removed have remained engaged with the service
- parent mentors involved in the project have built up valuable skills and some have made the transition to employment.
The FDAC provides intensive assessment, support, interventions and coordination of care for families affected by parental drug and/or alcohol misuse.
The team has expertise across a wide range of disciplines. There are drug and alcohol treatment specialists, clinical nurses and social workers. In addition, parent mentors are recruited and used where suitable: these mentors have been through substance misuse difficulties themselves and have had their children taken into care.
A judge also works closely on the case. The judge plays an important role in encouraging and motivating parents to engage with services through regular court hearing reviews. This means parents can be quickly put on a rigorous programme to help them overcome their destructive habit.
Selection - the cases that go through the Court
The FDAC is a pilot project, so cases are being randomly selected for the court in the pilot phase. The usual threshold for proceedings applies to these cases and if they do not get chosen for the FDAC they will enter the usual family proceedings court instead.
There are no acceptance criteria to become a potential FDAC case, but there must be a history of drug or alcohol misuse in the family and this should be the main factor impacting on parenting ability. However, there are some exclusion criteria:
- a history of severe physical or sexual abuse of the children
- ongoing domestic violence, where the safety of the parents/children cannot be established or supported
- parents experiencing florid psychosis which would prevent them from being able to engage purposefully or meaningfully in the project.
There are a limited number of places available in the pilot scheme. Of all the potential cases, only one or two are selected at random each week.
The chosen families will be notified that they have been selected for the FDAC ,and given written information about it before the first hearing, and at the first hearing by the FDAC team.
The FDAC is voluntary and if parents do not wish to proceed, their case will be heard in the usual family proceedings court.
For more information please call 020 278 5708 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org