Study finds that UK Family Drug & Alcohol Courts outperform regular courts

May 26, 2011 at 8:55 pm Leave a comment

Researchers from Brunel University announced results from a study of the impact of a pilot Family Drug and Alcohol Court in London. Main objectives of the study are to assess the effectiveness, added value and costs of FDAC as compared to regular courts dealing with the challenges of parental substance misuse. Small samples of problem parents dealt with by FDAC is compared to a sample of individuals and families suffering from similar problems but subjected to regular court proceedings.

Parental drug and alcohol abuse is a complex social and legal problem which is often passed across generations. The traditional responses to the problem are plagued by  “poor child and parent outcomes; insufficient co-ordination between adult and children’s services; late intervention to protect children; delay in reaching decisions; and the soaring costs of proceedings, linked to the cost of expert evidence.” The individuals who comprised the two samples suffered from multiple and serious problems.

“High rates of domestic violence, mental health problems, criminal convictions, housing problems and a history of parents being in care. Parents in each sample had a long history of substance misuse The children had many difficulties as well as child protection needs. Emotional and behavioural problems affected a third of the FDAC children and half the comparison children, and a quarter of all children had physical health problems. A higher proportion of FDAC children were under five and were born withdrawing from drugs.”

The pilot FDAC courts focus on problem-solving and integrate the efforts of specialized judges, and care specialists. In practice FDAC works as  a multi-disciplinary team of practitioners. Lawyers have relatively limited role and are largely excluded from the proceedings. Not surprisingly one of the findings is that FDAC proceedings show lower level of conflict.

Despite the limitations the study finds conclusive support for the effectiveness of FDAC in several dimensions:

  • Troubled parents receive quicker access to effective services addressing the full range of problems resulting from their substance abuse. Most importantly – parents treated by FDAC received more help than the parents from the comparison sample;
  • FDAC coordinated the access of the substance abuse parents to multiple sources of help and coordinated the provision of services;
  • “FDAC assessments uncovered more unmet needs in relation to substance misuse, domestic violence and maternal mental health than had been identified by the local authority in the documents accompanying the application for care proceedings”;
  • “A higher proportion of FDAC than comparison parents had ceased misusing substances by the end of proceedings”;
  • More FDAC parents were reunited with their children;
  • Although procedural duration does not differ time is allocated in a more constructive way.
Read the executive summary of the study on the Family Drug & Alcohol Courts here
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Entry filed under: Access to Justice, Costs of justice, Family Law, Impact Assessment, Research, UK.

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