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New court keeps children safe

The UK's pilot Family Drug and Alcohol Court (FDAC) was independently evaluated by Brunel's Professor Judith Harwin as a new approach to tackling substance misuse of parents. The project has since successfully reduced the number of children taken into care and gone some way to informing Government policy, and the programme is now set to be extended to other areas of the country.

Following the report's release, Prof Harwin said, "Our findings show FDAC is effective in helping to break the cycle of harm caused by parental substance misuse. One of the main strengths of FDAC is its unique combination of a specialist team attached to the court and judges who stick with a case throughout, motivating parents and providing tight oversight."

Testing ran from January 2008 through to March 2012, finding that parents who had been through the FDAC process as opposed to standard care proceedings were more likely to stop misusing substances. Those who succeeded were more likely to be reunited with their children. Furthermore, FDAC families who were reunited at the end of proceedings had lower rates of neglector abuse in the first year following reunification than reunited families who had been through standard care proceedings.

One parent who participated told Harwin's research team, "FDAC hasbeen of enormous benefit to us. I have been freed from addiction and my child has gained a father." The challenge now is to ensure that FDAC can fulfill its potential within the context of changes to the family justice system, such as the newly introduced Children and Families Act (2014).