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In 2004, District Judge Nicholas Crichton, who sat in the Inner London Family Proceedings Court, was keen to see what effective and evidence-led practices could be identified to tackle parental substance misuse. His research led him to the American Family Drug Treatment Court (FDTC) model.

The USA’s first FDTC was developed in Nevada in the mid-1990s. By the late 1990s, the model had been adopted by a number of other States. FDTCs operate as a special sessions which provide a non-adversarial setting for courts and parties to come together to determine the individual treatment needs of substance-misusing parents and work with them to improve their capacity to care for their children. The parents have legal proceedings suspended while they engage with the FDTC and attend regular court reviews where they discuss their progress with the judge.

Family Drug Treatment Courts are one aspect of a broader problem-solving court movement. It started in the late 1980s with drug courts, and rapidly expanded into other court innovations such as community courts, domestic violence courts, and mental health courts. Problem-solving courts now exist all over the world. For example, drug courts have spread to Barbados, Bermuda, Brazil, Canada, Cayman Islands, Chile, Jamaica, Mexico, Trinidad and Tobago, New Zealand, Norway, Scotland and Ireland. There are domestic violence courts in Australia, New Zealand and Canada. And other developments have been inspired directly by the US problem-solving court movement, as for example the Collingwood Community Justice Centre in Australia and the Downtown Community Court in Vancouver, Canada, which is based on the Red Hook Community Justice Center in New York.

For more information on international trends in problem solving, visit the Centre for Justice Innovation’s Better Courts work programme on the website of the Centre for Justice Innovation, one of our partner agencies.