Home > Introducing the highlights from: problem solving in court: current practice in FDACs in England.

Tunnard, Jo and Ryan, Mary and Harwin, Judith (2016) Introducing the highlights from: problem solving in court: current practice in FDACs in England. Lancaster University.

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The FDAC (Family drug and alcohol court) problem-solving approach in court is about hearing cases in a collaborative rather than an adversarial manner. FDAC’s main features are judicial continuity, fortnightly judge-led review hearings without lawyers present where judges use motivational interviewing techniques with parents, encouraging parents to seize every opportunity to turn their lives around for the benefit of their children.

In early 2016, expanding on their 2014 research, Lancaster University and Ryan Tunnard Brown undertook a review of FDAC problem-solving court practices. The study consisted of observations of 46 hearings in 10 FDAC courts. The study had two main aims. The first was to test whether FDAC judges are currently using a problem-solving approach during court hearings. The second was to collect the views of judges about differences between FDAC and ordinary care proceedings, local implementation of the FDAC model, and the value of extending its problem-solving approach to other types of care cases.

The findings are very positive. The researchers found clear evidence that adherence to the principles and practice of the FDAC problem-solving approach is at the heart of the FDAC courts, and that the judges were unanimous in their support for the FDAC approach which they described as a more compassionate way of responding to the parental difficulties that put children at risk of harm.

The study made a strong case for: continuing to roll out and sustain the FDAC model; ensure fidelity to the FDAC model through initial and ongoing training by the FDAC National Unit; and generate local and national discussion about which other types of care proceedings would benefit from the FDAC approach.

Their data collection and analysis focused on evidence of the following principles and practice being in place.

Problem-solving principles focusing on the FDAC process:
1. Enhanced information (to and from all parties)
2. A collaborative approach (solving problems through joint thinking and action)
3. Fair decision making (using a non-adversarial and an honest, transparent approach)
4. Judicial review and monitoring (by a specially-trained judge)
5. A focus on outcomes (to achieve the changes needed in parental behaviour and lifestyle).

Problem-solving activity focusing on Judges practice:
1. talking to parents
2. inviting their views
3. expressing interest in their progress
4. acknowledging family strengths
5. offering praise to parents
6. explaining the aims of FDAC
7. explaining decisions made
8. urging parents to take responsibility for their actions, including the consequences of prioritising their own needs over those of their children, and
9. using time in court to tackle the range of problems faced by parents (that is, using a problem-solving approach).

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