Family Drug and Alcohol Court is Coming to West Yorkshire
The Family Drug and Alcohol Court (FDAC) was launched in January 2008 in the Inner London Family Proceedings Court to deal with families within Camden, Islington, Westminster, Hammersmith and Fulham and Southwark.
The aim of the court is to assist families where substance misuse is the main issue and is causing harm to children and to keep the family together. It works by helping the parents to stabilise their lives by working with different agencies through the multi-disciplinary team which is linked to the court. This therapeutic team work with the family with the objective for the parents to become drug/alcohol free, as regular testing is undertaken. As well as the multi-disciplinary team there is a dedicated children’s guardian who looks at what is in the best interests of the children as the matter progresses. Consistency in the judicial process is achieved by the family seeing the same judge at every hearing, which occurs every two weeks. Whilst legal representation is available, some of the hearings take place without any solicitors present; it is just the family and the judge.
The independent evaluation in 2011 showed that this court was more successful at keeping families together than care proceedings.
Sir James Munby, president of the Family Division of the High Court, said: “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.”
He added: “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.”
The Department for Education has agreed a £2.5m grant so that the FDAC can be expanded to East Sussex, Kent and Medway, Plymouth, Torbay and Exeter, and West Yorkshire. Unfortunately funding has only been agreed for one year.
Samantha Sanders, a child care solicitor at Ridley & Hall commented:
“This is a massive step for the family court. A lot of the families we deal with usually have substance misuse as an issue. Unfortunately, we see time and time again that parents are not able to make the break from their substance misuse in the time it takes the care proceedings to conclude. This means that a number of children are being separated and at times adopted away from their birth family. The success of the FDAC in London is great to see and it is a welcome relief to child care solicitors in West Yorkshire. Hopefully it will prove to be a huge success here so that the Department of Education can be convinced to expand the funding indefinitely.”
For any legal advice concerning child care, please contact Ridley & Hall on 01484 538421 and ask to speak to a member of our Childcare & Adoption team.