THE COURT PROCESS
Proceedings in FDAC are care proceedings, issued by the local authority in the usual way. But once parents agree to have the case heard by the FDAC court – rather than the ordinary court – the difference between the two processes kicks in.
How FDAC is different
The FDAC court adopts a problem-solving approach. It uses its authority to provide a comprehensive response to the problems that led to care proceedings. It is assisted by a specialist, multi-disciplinary team. The work of the court and the team is underpinned by the belief that parents can change and that the court has a role as an agent of change. Parents are given ‘a trial for change’ that provides them with the best possible chance of overcoming their substance misuse and other problems within a timescale that is compatible with their child’s needs.
In a nutshell, the FDAC model strengthens the motivation of parents to overcome their problems. It gets families working successfully with social workers, adult treatment services and judges. It does this because the court and team work closely together, guided by the same driving principle of giving parents an intensive service to help them overcome entrenched difficulties.
How an FDAC case runs
Proceedings follow the Public Law Outline, with some minor exceptions. So, as well as the initial Case Management Hearing, there is a Further Case Management Hearing. This means that parents can be introduced to the FDAC process at the first Case Management Hearing and agree to have a full assessment by the specialist team within the next five days. The Further Case Management Hearing takes place between weeks 2 and 4 of proceedings. By this time an intervention plan, drawn up by the specialist team, will have been discussed and agreed by all the parties. At the Further Case Management Hearing parents formally agree to have their case heard in FDAC.
The parties are represented by their lawyers at the Case Management Hearing, the Further Case Management Hearing and the Issues Resolution Hearing. However, between the Further Case Management Hearing and the Issues Resolution Hearing (normally week 20 of proceedings) the parents attend court once a fortnight for a non-lawyer review. Their key worker from the FDAC team, the social worker and, if possible, the guardian also attend. The FDAC team prepares a short report on progress and this is circulated to all the parties before the review. A note is taken of what is said at the review and circulated to all.
If necessary, or if requested by the parties, the judge will ask for the next hearing to be heard with lawyers present.
FDAC aim is to complete cases within 26 weeks but, if at week 19 it appears that there is a clear possibility of the child or children returning home to their parent or parents, an application is made for an extension to the 26-week time limit. An extension can be of any length up to 8 weeks.