Family Drug and Alcohol Courts (FDACs) were first piloted in London in January 2008. They were introduced to the UK by the well-known District Judge Nicholas Crichton, who sadly passed away in December 2018.
DJ Crichton had been inspired by Family Treatment Courts in California, and wanted to develop a similar problem-solving approach in the UK.
“What is it that family courts are there to do?”, Crichton asked, “Just take away children? Or are we there to provide part of the whole construct of support around families to try to enable children to remain within their families? If we are looking to remove the 8th, 9th or 10th child, the family courts can’t be doing very well by this family”.
Having removed the 14th child from one family, Crichton wanted to find a new way of working which could disrupt the pattern of family courts removing new babies over and over again from the same parents. FDAC was his answer.
FDAC has been running ever since in central London, and slowly started to spread across Greater London and then the UK from 2013. Family Drug and Alcohol Courts offer an alternative approach to ordinary care proceedings. The FDAC judge holds fortnightly court reviews with parents, in addition to the usual court hearings with lawyers present.
A specialist multi-disciplinary FDAC team works closely with the judge and other professionals to provide intensive treatment and support for parents wishing to turn their lives around. The principles underpinning FDAC are shared with other problem-solving courts and there is a firm focus on working positively with parents.
Independent evaluations of FDAC carried out by Brunel and Lancaster Universities have found that FDAC was more successful than ordinary proceedings in helping parents achieve abstinence from drugs and alcohol and thus enabled more children to be reunified with their parents.