THE NEED FOR THE NATIONAL UNIT
The National Unit seeks to tackle the problem that too few families have access to a local FDAC service. That’s why the National Unit is working hard to help get FDACs up and running in different parts of the country.
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Having a National Unit means that we can:
Tracy’s story shows how FDAC helped her turn her life around, be the parent she always wanted to be, and move on to help others tackle similar problems of their own. We want more families to get the fairer deal that FDAC offers parents who are at risk of losing the care of their children. By 2020 the National Unit wants to have supported the growth of FDAC in half the family court areas in England.
Parental substance misuse features in up to two-thirds of care proceedings. It is a major risk factor for child maltreatment and for cases coming back to court when reunification fails. In helping parents break harmful patterns of behaviour, FDAC is giving children the best chance of avoiding or overcoming problems of isolation, neglect, low self-esteem and poor mental health. This is why the National Unit is determined to extend as widely as possible the FDAC service which gives parents more hope of dealing with their problems in a timeframe that matches the needs of their children.
The data collection tools for recording and analysing the progress of all FDAC families will help us answer some key questions. It will enable individual services to understand their impact locally, and it will provide a large body of evidence that will help refine our understanding about the impact of the FDAC model in the short and longer term. The National Unit has a crucial role in this: it steers the work of data collection, ensuring consistency in what is recorded and how change is measured, and it collaborates with national agencies holding other big datasets that can inform our thinking and learning.
We know how difficult it can be to set up new services, and we know about some of the things that can prompt change and sustain momentum. By careful tracking of each new FDAC, we are building evidence about what contributes to the successful roll out of the FDAC model. We are exploring the role of local champions, perceptions about cost and value for money, and the challenges for specialist teams in children and family work.
Evaluation of the FDAC model has shown that it provides better outcomes for children and families than ordinary care proceedings. It makes a compelling case for a problem-solving approach to local authority concerns about the adverse impact of parental problems on children, and for a move towards a non-adversarial court system.
The evaluation has been commended for its robustness. It is cited alongside seven USA studies as having been conducted by “independent scientific teams” and as offering “convincing evidence that [family drug courts] produce clinically meaningful benefits and better outcomes than traditional family reunification services for substance-abusing parents.” [Research Update on Family Drug Courts – NADCP].
It is also cited by the panel of the Higher Education Funding Council Research Excellence Framework (2014) as being “world leading” and contributing to “real change in policy and practice.”
Summary findings of the UK research include:
- a higher proportion of mothers and fathers ceasing to misuse drugs and alcohol
- fewer parents relapsing
- more parents resuming care of their children
- less abuse and neglect after return home, and
- family reunification lasting longer.
Click here for more detail of the research findings.