The Family Drug and Alcohol Court
The Family Drug and Alcohol Court
The Family Drug and Alcohol Court (FDAC) is an alternative to traditional care proceedings and helps families where children are at risk by the substance misuse of their parents. The FDAC works with the whole family and keeps children at the centre of everyone’s thinking. The FDAC North East is a partnership between Gateshead Council, Newcastle City Council and North Tyneside Council.
How does the FDAC work?
The FDAC is all about trying to solve the problems that have led the local authority to bring families to court. To do this, the same Judge reviews the case every fortnight and there is an independent team of workers, the FDAC Intervention Team, to support the Judge and to help the family to make changes to their life.
What can I expect from FDAC?
If you agree to be part of FDAC you will start working with the FDAC Intervention Team. Between the first and second court hearings you will have an assessment day at the FDAC office and an Intervention Planning Meeting. This is where the FDAC team will work with you to agree your Intervention Plan.
The Intervention Plan will set out clearly how you are going to work together with professionals to overcome your difficulties and meet the needs of your child or children
When the Intervention Plan is agreed the judge will say this is what everyone is going to follow. This usually happens at the second court hearing. Everyone is then expected to do their best to follow the Intervention Plan.
To show that you are committed to the Intervention Plan, the judge will ask you to sign an agreement to be open and honest with the FDAC Intervention Team and the court and agree to share information.
Who is in the FDAC Intervention Team?
The team includes people with different skills, which is why it is called ‘a multidisciplinary team’. The team has a Child Protection Social Worker, Substance Misuse worker, and Mental Health Worker. The team also works with a Psychiatrist and Psychologist who help us to offer you the support you need.
In the future the team will also include Parent Mentors. Parent mentors are parents who have overcome drug or alcohol problems in their lives, and some have been involved in care proceedings. They may have been through FDAC themselves. Parent Mentors can provide parents with support, encouragement, and reassurance when they are at court, or being assessed, or working on their Intervention Plan.
How often will I meet with the FDAC judge?
You will have a meeting at court every fortnight with the FDAC judge. These hearings are called a Progress Review. It is your chance to talk to the Judge about what is going well and not so well with the Intervention Plan, and what to do about any problems you are having. To help these meetings run smoothly the FDAC Intervention Team writes a short report to brief the Judge on your progress against the Intervention Plan.
Progress Review meetings are held without any solicitors. A member of the FDAC Intervention Team will support you at these meetings. Parents tell us that they find Progress Reviews are a good way of having their say and they feel more in control of what is going to happen next.
As well as Progress Reviews you will also have Case Management Hearings at specific points in the FDAC timetable. Solicitors attend these hearings.
What help will I get from FDAC Intervention Team? What will my Intervention Plan Include?
This will depend upon what kind of help and support you and your family need. The FDAC Intervention Team will work with you and with services in your area.
The interventions will involve working on the four following areas of your life.
- Abstinence: Getting support and advice on becoming and maintaining a drug and alcohol-free life.
- Understanding & repair: Getting support, advice, and interventions to help understand the problems that might be causing substance misuse, domestic abuse, and mental health difficulties.
- Strengthening relationships: Being supported to be more sensitive and responsive with your children and to strengthen your relationships with other adults, such as your partner, your child’s other parent, and the wider family.
- A lifestyle where the child is at the centre: Families are helped to develop a lifestyle that enables you to give high priority to the needs of your children.
You can discuss your assessment and Intervention Plan with your solicitor and any other person.
How long does FDAC take?
The FDAC works within two different timescales. The first timescale is about what is right for your child or children and the other is about what the court process requires.
The very best result from your time in FDAC is that you overcome your problems in time to meet your child or children’s needs. This timescale will be different in every family’s individual situation.
The court also has a timescale. A limit of 26 weeks has been set for finishing care proceedings. This is what is expected for those FDAC cases where children will not be returning home to their parents. If families are making good progress in the FDAC the judge may allow proceedings to go on beyond 26 weeks to test out plans for children to return to parents’ care.
What will be expected of me if I join FDAC?
You will be asked to be open and honest with the FDAC Intervention Team and the court and agree to share information to help support the work with you and your family.
The FDAC in return will work to earn your trust and respect. We will tell you what you can expect from us and what we expect from you.
Why have I been invited to join FDAC?
The local authorities involved in FDAC look at all the child protection cases that they are taking to court to see which ones are suitable for FDAC. You might be suitable because:
- Your substance misuse or your substance misuse and domestic abuse is the local authority’s main worry, or one of their main worries; or
- You are showing real signs that you want to make changes to your life.
Do I get a choice about joining FDAC?
Yes, it is up to you. You can join FDAC right away, or you can say you want your case to go into normal care proceedings. You can also take a bit of time to decide what to do. Your solicitor will give you advice about all of this.
If by the second hearing of FDAC you are not happy with what FDAC is offering you, you can opt-out and your case will go into normal care proceedings instead.
Who do I speak to for more information about FDAC?
You can speak to child’s social worker or your solicitor.
Did you know?
Research suggests Family Drug and Alcohol Courts get better results than when parents go to court in normal care proceedings. A research study at Brunel University found more parents had solved their problems by the end of their care proceedings compared to normal care proceedings. For example 40% of FDAC mothers were no longer misusing drugs and alcohol, compared to 25% of the mothers in normal care proceedings.