5 December 2016 13:18

Family reunification is more likely to be sustainable after proceedings in the Family Drug and Alcohol Court (FDAC), and mothers are more likely to deal with their substance misuse than parents who go through ordinary family courts, according to two reports published today. 

The reports found that fewer children are likely to go into care as a result of FDAC’s ‘humane’ approach.

Both reports, published in full, expand in more detail on the summaries, released earlier this year, which introduced the main findings.

The first study After FDAC: Outcomes 5 years later. Final Report traced the cases that had been through the FDAC in London – the first in the country – over five years following the end of the care proceedings and compared their outcomes with similar cases going through the ordinary family court.

They found that:

  • A significantly higher proportion of FDAC than comparison mothers were reunited with their children at the end of proceedings (37% v 25%)
  • A significantly higher proportion of reunified FDAC mothers than comparison mothers were estimated to experience no disruption to family stability (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, compared to mothers going through the ordinary family court, a significantly higher proportion of mothers going through FDAC:

  • Stopped misusing substances at the end of proceedings (46% v 30%).
  • Were more likely to sustain substance misuse cessation during the 5 year period after care proceedings ended (58% v 24%)

The second report Problem solving in court: Current practice in FDACs in England. Final report carried out observations of 46 court hearings in 10 FDAC courts across England and held interviews with 12 FDAC judges.

They found that FDAC judges were implementing FDAC’s distinctive approach to care proceedings and were committed to its problem-solving approach. They thought the approach was fairer and ‘more humane’.

The evaluation concluded that the approach, which was first piloted in the London FDAC, can be successfully implemented in other courts too.

Professor Judith Harwin, of Lancaster University’s Law School, lead investigator of After FDAC: Outcomes 5 years later said: “This follow-up study provides new evidence that FDAC is helping more families affected by parental substance misuse than those seen in the ordinary court both in the short and longer-term. FDAC should continue to be rolled out and sustained.”

The studies were conducted by a team of researchers at Lancaster University, Brunel University London and Consultancy RyanTunardBrown and were funded by the DfE Children’s Social Care Innovation Fund.