The Family Drug and Alcohol Court: helping parents to realise and overcome their addictions

The Family Drug and Alcohol Court (FDAC) is a joint initiative between the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust and children’s charity Coram.

FDAC offers an alternative route to parents whose problems with substances mean that they might otherwise be at risk of losing their children. Through the FDAC process, parents receive the support they need to identify and overcome their addictions, with a view to being able to continue to care for their children.

“I was in such a state of denial that I could not see my drinking as the major problem it was. I thought I just needed to cut down. It finally dawned on me that I needed to fully engage with FDAC and take advantage of the help and support they were giving me.”

It’s a vital service: FDAC gives families a fair go. Every parent gets the maximum possible help to overcome his or her problems in order to keep families together, provided they can do so in a timeframe compatible with their children’s needs. Support for the parent is crucial, but children’s safety must take precedence.

FDAC is different. Cases in FDAC are heard by the same district Judge throughout. This allows continuity and a complete understanding of individual cases and circumstances; it means parents can build a relationship with the Judge and the specialist, multi-disciplinary team that works with the court. The team includes volunteers with personal experience of overcoming substance misuse - some are even FDAC graduates.

“The consistent work with my FDAC key worker had begun to open my eyes to the dangers my drinking posed to my son. He helped me to an awareness of how the way I was drinking was harmful to my son and prevented us forming any meaningful father-son relationship.”

 

If parents agree to work with the FDAC, an initial assessment is carried out by the specialist FDAC team. At the same time, the team formulate an intervention plan, in collaboration and agreement with all parties, which they then co-ordinate. The plan is given authority by the court and the ‘trial for change’ begins. The progress made by parents is monitored regularly by the team and the Judge at regular hearings, which take place without the presence of lawyers. 

“The fact that the court appearances were every two weeks and before the same Judge reinforced the consistency of the key work I was doing with my FDAC keyworker. I was able to build a relationship with the Judge, and I felt that he was taking a very real interest in my son’s well-being, rather than just being some anonymous, impersonal adjudicator.” 

Ultimately, parents feel they are given a real opportunity to turn their lives around;

“FDAC has helped me be the sort of person I want to be. It’s helped me remain abstinent, focused and motivated and instilled in me a real sense of achievement and confidence.”

Substance misuse is a problem that can affect anyone. But support and services are available that aid recovery and ensure families are kept together. For more information on FDAC, visit www.fdac.org.uk or contact the FDAC National Unit on 0207 278 5708.

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