Parents addicted to drink and drugs are to receive help and support as part of a new programme designed to reduce the number of children being taken into care.
A new specialist court has launched in Birmingham and Solihull. It will be overseen by judges who will have the authority to work with parents to find solutions to drug and alcohol misuse, mental health problems and domestic abuse.
The Family Drug and Alcohol Courts (FDAC) are ‘problem solving courts’ which will work with families to create a safe home life and to keep them together where it is safe to do so.
The new Birmingham and Solihull FDAC is supported by Birmingham Children’s Trust and Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council.
Councillor Ken Meeson, Cabinet Portfolio Holder for Children, Education & Skills, at Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council: “We are pleased to be working in partnership with Birmingham Children’s Trust in providing an innovative solution to tackling substance misuse and the impact it has on parenting capacity. We hope that this problem-solving approach to care proceedings will mean closer working with Solihull families that need that additional support, meaning improved outcomes for children and their families.”
The Department for Education has funded this initiative and the West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner has also provided financial support for the post of the domestic abuse worker within the team.
This is initially a two-year pilot supported by The Centre for Justice Innovation, which will be evaluated by the What Works Centre. At least 60 families across Birmingham and Solihull will benefit from this initiative.
Birmingham Children’s Trust chair, Andrew Christie, said: “Birmingham Children’s Trust has worked hard with our partners in Solihull and with the Judiciary, to establish the Birmingham and Solihull FDAC.
“This model offers the opportunity to work differently with parents to produce better outcomes for their children. Bringing services together, led by a specialist judge, to get the right support and challenge in place offers us the opportunity to make a real difference.”
Key information about FDAC
- Research shows that compared to ‘standard’ care proceedings, more parents reduce and control their substance misuse within FDAC and, significantly, more children can return to or remain in their parents’ care.
- FDAC aims to solve problems that have led a local authority to bring a parent to court. Parents must agree to join the process, after which they will have regular contact with a specialist judge who reviews the case.
- A team of specialists, including two psychologists, a psychiatrist, social workers, a substance misuse worker, a domestic abuse worker and a mental health worker, in addition to peer mentors, provides intensive support to help each family and gives advice to the judge about the parental changes that have been made and whether they can meet their children’s needs.
- Families will see the same judge every fortnight to address problems and try to resolve their issues, with the aim of stopping or stabilising the parents’ use of drugs and keeping the family together.
- In 2014 and 2016 research by a team at Brunel University, funded by the Nuffield Foundation, found FDAC had helped 35% of mothers become reunited with children, compared with 19% in cases without this specialist involvement. 25% of FDAC fathers were no longer misusing substances, compared to 5%, for those families not involved in FDAC.