As of 28th September 2020, in the West Midlands, the Black Country Family, Drug and Alcohol Court (‘FDAC’) was launched, This scheme which will cover families in Walsall, Sandwell and Dudley area.
The Family Drug and Alcohol Court is an alternative family court for care proceedings. Alongside the court, a team of professionals with different specialisms – in areas like substance misuse, domestic violence & abuse and mental health, work closely with the family during the court process. This is known as and referred to as the ‘problem solving court’.
First piloted in London in January 2008, the UK now has 10 specialist FDAC teams, working in 13 venues and serving families in 20 local authorities.
FDAC aims to help parents stabilise or stop using drugs and/or alcohol and, where possible, keep families together. The process involves co-ordinating a range of services so that a family’s needs and strengths are considered, with everyone working towards a safe and stable family for the child.
The work is underpinned by the belief that parents can change and that the court has a role as an agent of change. When this is not possible FDAC works to ensure that parents are treated fairly in court proceedings.
Mrs Justice Knowles, a family liaison judge for the Midland circuit, said:
‘FDACs require a significant commitment from both local authorities and the judiciary as families have intensive multi-disciplinary support throughout the process and they meet with judges every fortnight to ensure that progress is monitored. During the last decade FDACs have continued to demonstrate positive outcomes for families in family care proceedings and are now well recognised as an important alternative for these difficult cases.’
How FDAC is different…..
Unlike traditional care proceedings, the parents in FDAC will:
- see the same judge throughout the course of the proceedings
- have regular court reviews without legal representatives
- receive support from a multi-disciplinary team linked to the court including assessment of parental substance misuse and parenting ability; intervention plans; fast access to substance misuse services; and help with housing issues, domestic violence and financial hardship
- receive drug/alcohol testing via the FDAC team
- are offered extra support from volunteer parent mentors
- benefit from a dedicated pool of children’s guardians attached to the court
Parents who join FDAC are given what is called ‘a trial for change’. Parents and professionals working together in a way that means everyone is clear about what has to be done, and when and why. The local authorities look at all the cases that they are taking to court, to see which ones are suitable for FDAC. A case might be chosen because:
- Parental drug and alcohol use is the local authority’s main worry, or one of their main worries.
- Parents are showing real signs that they want to make changes to their life.
This new problem solving court may enable more families the support and opportunity to effect change in order to keep the family together.
Go to https://fdac.org.uk/what-have-other-parents-said-about-fdac/ to see what other parents have said about the FDAC and their experience.
The Birmingham local authority and courts are in discussions about piloting the scheme in Birmingham to help offer support to families however, due to the pandemic, this has been somewhat delayed.
If you are experiencing difficulties with any issues outlined above or your children or family are involved in care proceedings and you require specialist legal advice then do not hesitate to contact one of our specialists here at Greens solicitors who will do their best to help you.
Blog by Aimee Baker