A large-scale evaluation of the impact of Family Drug and Alcohol Courts (FDAC) as an alternative to standard care proceedings (the new legal framework introduced by the Children and Families Act in 2014). FDAC aims to address the problems which have led the local authority to bring the parent(s) to court by using a ‘problem-solving’ approach. This involves a specialist multi-disciplinary team working closely with a judge and other professionals to provide intensive support to parents, with the aim of reducing their substance misuse issues.
Objectives: The objective of the impact evaluation was to understand the effect of FDAC proceedings on reunification for children and families at the end of care proceedings compared to standard care proceedings. The evaluation also aimed to test if parents who had been through the FDAC process as opposed to standard care proceedings were more likely to stop misusing substances, and also investigated if there were any differences in the rate of contested final hearings or the use of expert witnesses in proceedings.
- Children with a primary carer in FDAC care proceedings were more likely to be reunified with their primary carer at the end of the care proceeding in comparison to children with a primary carer in non-FDAC care proceedings (52.0% versus 12.5%).
- A higher proportion of FDAC than comparison parents had ceased to misuse drugs or alcohol by the end of the proceedings (33.6% versus 8.1%).
- The proportion of hearings being contested was lower for FDAC than standard care proceedings (4.2% versus 23.8%).
- A lower proportion of FDAC cases used external expert witness assessments compared with non-FDAC care proceedings (7.7% versus 96.1%).
- Children in FDAC sites had lower probability of being placed in LA care compared with non-FDAC care proceedings (28.6% versus 54.7%).
- The positive outcomes for cases supported by FDAC is in line with the evidence on FDAC in the WWCSC’s Evidence Store and the literature base.