The Family Drug and Alcohol Court (FDAC) is a way of dealing with care proceedings when parental substance misuse causes harm to children.
FDAC aims to help parents stabilise or stop using drugs and or alcohol and, where possible, keep families together. The process involves coordinating a range of services so that a family’s needs and strengths are taken into account, with everyone working towards the best possible outcome for the child: that is, a safe and stable family.
FDAC is currently operating across London and was extended recently to Kent, working out of the Maidstone Family Court. A referral to the FDAC results in the parent being able to attend hearings and meetings held at the Court with identified professionals who can help that parent deal with specific issues and substance misuse to enable them to obtain the relevant help and support that may otherwise be denied or are inaccessible to them.
Cases are referred into FDAC by Local Authorities. This can happen as part of the pre-proceedings activity or when the Local Authority is issuing care proceedings and there would have been discussions with the specialist team before any referral is made. The process followed by the team is similar whether the case is in Court proceedings or not.
Substance misuse specialists and social workers from the team carry out an early and quick assessment of the parents. An intervention plan is agreed at a meeting attended by the parents, social workers and guardian and the parents will begin a ‘trial for change’ if the plan is agreed. The team provide a key worker who does direct work with the parent and co-ordinates all the services identified in the plan. The team also carry out drug and alcohol testing, and in cases in proceedings, they prepare regular short reports on the parents’ progress and they attend Court reviews. Intervention Planning review meetings are held at regular intervals, to agree any changes to the plan and decide on future action.
There is regular communication between the team and the judge in relation to cases in Court, and between the team and relevant adult and children’s services as well as with housing services and domestic abuse services and with legal representatives.
A key aspect of the model is that it works independently of the Local Authority. This means independence from the children’s social care team and the local child protection and children in need teams with the ultimate aim to keep families together with the hope that the work undertaken by the parent with FDAC has assisted with the difficulties identified which has brought the family to the attention of the authorities in the first instance and has helped to keep a family together with the child/ren remaining safe in their parent(s) care.