Support for mothers in a destructive cycle
The research suggested that in over 90% of these cases, the mother's are involved in more than one set of proceedings, with new proceedings issued following the birth of more children. The findings of this research are hardly a surprise to me. I have frequently represented mothers in more than one set of proceedings, yet again having to guide them through a heart breaking and difficult time. It is indeed, as the research suggests, 'a destructive cycle.'
As the study, in my opinion, quite rightly concludes, these figures illustrate that there is a need for change in the court's approach and the actions and focus of child protection services. The research questions whether more work could be done to try and break this cycle by working with mothers. As a child care practitioner, who frequently represents parents in these types of proceedings, I am often frustrated at the lack of assistance offered by the local authorities particularly in respect of parents where the issue is one of substance abuse.
Without a doubt the focus of the court and local authority must be the child, however due weight must be given to properly explore the possibility of safe reunion with the child's parents and in some cases that means putting in the proper support and assistance to enable that parent to care safely.
The Family Drug and Alcohol Court has been established in London for some time. It provides an alternative to standard care proceedings for families with parental substance abuse problems. It was founded in 2008 and currently covers five London Boroughs. Unlike standard family courts, the Family Drug and Alcohol Court co-ordinates a programme of treatment and support that aims to manage or stop the parent's substance abuse. An evaluation of the court's work completed in 2011 showed that by the time of final court order 39% of mothers were reunited with their children compared to 21% in standard care proceedings.
It is reassuring and pleasing to hear, that following this Court's success it has very recently been rolled out to cover Milton Keynes Council and Buckinghamshire County Council. Hopefully these courts will be recognised as one solution to end this cycle and in due course more parts of the country will have access to them.
Anne is a solicitor in our family team with over ten years experience in family law. She specialises in cases involving children, including care proceedings and adoption matters. If you would like to talk to her or any of the other members of our Family team about residence or contact get in touch on 0800 923 2074 or email [email protected].