Coram welcomes report about Family Drug and Alcohol Court’s ‘humane’ approach

Published: Thursday 22nd September 2016

New research has found that mothers reunited with their children after care proceedings in the Family Drug and Alcohol Court (FDAC), supported by Coram, 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.

The researchers have found that 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, having spent over 5 years comparing FDAC cases and those going through regular proceedings. They highlight the need for continuing greater support for family reunification after care proceedings finish and for health and adult services to contribute to funding FDAC alongside children’s services.

Welcoming the research, Renuka Jeyarajah-Dent, Director of Operations at Coram which provides the social work team at London FDAC (and Kent FDAC), said:

“These very heartening findings are also extremely timely. On Monday Sir James Munby, President of the Family Division, while highlighting his concern about the huge rise in care applications, also praised the “excellent and immensely fruitful work” being done in the expanding network of FDACs.

“FDAC takes an active role in helping parents to resolve the issues and challenges they are facing which are placing their children at risk. The key to the success of the FDAC model is the quality of assessment to identify parents’ capacity to change and the multi-agency support they receive from of range of professionals. This approach gives parents the best chance of making the life changes they need to provide their child with a safe, healthy and nurturing home – and if they have to part accepting the reasons why.”

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%)
• 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%)
• 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 twelve 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.

Both studies recommend that FDAC, an alternative problem-solving approach to care proceedings, should continue to be rolled out more widely and to be sustained.

Research was carried out by a team of researchers at Lancaster University, Brunel University London and Consultancy RyanTunnardBrown and was funded by the DfE Children’s Social Care Innovation Fund.

Useful links

More information about FDAC

Read the full report