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What works centre for children's social care. (2019) Family drug and alcohol courts. London: What works centre for children's social care.

External website: https://wwc-evidence.herokuapp.com/interventions/1...

What is this?

Parental substance misuse is a common reason for families becoming involved with children’s social care in England. In 2017-18, 18 per cent of children’s social care assessments identified concerns about alcohol misuse and 21 per cent about drug misuse. 

Family Drug and Alcohol Courts originated in the USA in the 1990s as a way of responding to these problems. They aim to help parents address their substance misuse issues, improve family functioning and reduce the need for children to enter care. This is a multi-disciplinary service model which aims to improve the coordination of services for families, such as social services, substance abuse treatment, therapeutic services, domestic abuse intervention, employment and housing. This package of support is overseen by a court, which monitors parent’s compliance and administers rewards and sanctions. 

Family Drug and Alcohol Courts (known by various terms including as Family Treatment Drug Courts and Dependency Treatment Courts) have now been adopted in sites across the USA, in Australia, England and Northern Ireland.


Headline points

  • An overall positive effect on family reunification, based on high strength evidence
  • No evidence of effect on care re-entry or further maltreatment
  • Most evidence was from the USA, with one study from the UK

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