More Family Drug and Alcohol Courts to be rolled out across England

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There will be more family courts that deal with parents drink and drug addictions, in order to prevent their children from being taken into care, opening across England, funded by the Department of Education.

The Family Drug and Alcohol Court (FDAC) have been present in London for seven years now and new courts in Gloucestershire and Milton Keynes have opened more recently. The new plans outline prospective areas for FDAC in East Sussex, Kent and Medway, Plymouth, Torbay and Exeter and West Yorkshire.

Most families attending the court have at least one parent with a drink or drug problem. The FDAC has its own team of experts and doctors and parents come before the court every fortnight and see the same judge each time.

FDAC aims to improve outcomes for families and children who are living with parent(s) with drug or alcohol issues so they can remain or return to their parents care. When parents are unable to control their drink or drug habit FDAC makes swift decisions to find children permanent alternative homes.

Parents are encouraged to undertake a detox programme with therapy and treatments lasting approximately six weeks whilst their children are placed temporarily with family members or in care. After completing the intensive programme the parents undergo regular drug and alcohol tests.

In a study of 200 families 35% of mothers managed to kick their addictions which prevented them from losing their children. Only 19% of mother who go through the usual family court beat their habit and had their children returned to them, shows an evaluation of last year's London based FDAC by Brunel University-funded by the Nuffield Foundation.

"I consider FDAC as one of the most important and innovative developments in public family law in decades.

"I am a strong supporter and believe that its combination of therapy, offered by the multi-disciplinary team, and adjudication and direction using the authority of the court is the right approach for parents suffering from addiction." Sir James Munby, president of the Family Division of the High Court, told the Today programme.

"The process delivers better outcomes for the children and the parents subject to it and achieves this in a manner which respects the humanity of the parents." He added.

The expansion of FDAC will be made possible by a grant of £2.5m from the Department for Education.

The court's founder, District Judge Nicholas Crichton, told Radio 4's Today programme: "In the FDAC, we have seen some parents demonstrate a remarkable capacity to change in response to our more constructive, empathetic approach.

"These people have got their lives in a terrible mess, but they love their children... many of them dearly want to provide good enough care for their children."

"Importantly, FDAC has the support of parents themselves, which is crucial to its success."

Hundreds of families go through the FDAC each year, which is comparatively low considering that 18,000 children were involved in care proceedings in England between 2013-2014, according to the court service Cafcass.

Source: BBC News - Today Programme - Sanchia Berg