Parents with substance misuse problems are less likely to have their children taken into care if they have been through the Family Drug and Alcohol Court (FDAC), an independent evaluation has found.
Published today, the final evaluation of the pilot, operating in four London boroughs (Islington, Camden, Westminster, and Hammersmith & Fulham), compared the progress of 41 cases processed through the FDAC with 19 ordinary care cases involving parental substance misuse in the same period.
At the time of the final court order, 39% of mothers who had been through the FDAC system were able to keep their children, compared with 21% of mothers involved in care proceedings.
Almost half (48%) of the 41 mothers involved in the FDAC study had stopped misusing substances at the final order, compared with 39% in ordinary care proceedings.
And more than one third (36%) of fathers in FDAC cases were no longer misusing substances, while no fathers involved in standard care cases had stopped their misuse.
Researchers from the Nuffield Foundation and Brunel University found the FDAC system enabled courts to make “swifter decisions” in those cases where parents were unable to stop or control their substance misuse and reduced the number of contested hearings.
If children were taken into care they were in placements almost two months earlier than if they had been processed through typical care proceedings.
Based on a US programme, the FDAC system was brought to the UK by district judge Nicholas Crichton to provide an alternative to care proceedings for families with complex drug and alcohol problems. Families see the same judge throughout their case and are supported throughout by a multi-disciplinary team, including social workers, housing officers, drugs workers and psychiatrists.
The £2.1m pilot, run by the Inner London Family Proceedings Court in partnership with The Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust and children’s charity Coram, began in January 2008 and will continue until March 2012.
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