In the UK it is estimated that 2.6 million children live with a parent whose drinking puts them at risk of neglect, and 705,000 live with a dependent drinker. What does this mean for a family? Alcohol plays a part in 25-33% of known cases of child abuse, alcohol use is a contributor in a majority of domestic violence cases, and in a study of four London Boroughs, almost two-thirds (62%) of children subject to care proceedings had parents that misused substances.
After years of removing vulnerable children from these homes, District Judge Nicholas Crichton said, “Enough is enough.”
In 2008 Judge Crichton launched the UK’s first Family Drug and Alcohol Court. Known as FDAC, the court reflects the US DUI/Drug Court model where treatment, testing, and supervision are overseen by addictions counselors, treatment professionals, and a judicial team. FDAC warns parents that they must change their behavior with alcohol misuse or risk losing their children for good.
Beginning in November 2012, FDAC continues to pave the way for innovative thinking by pioneering the UK’s first Family Court Sobriety Pilot. As reported by the Daily Mail, throughout the course of the pilot 13 individual parents were referred after their drinking became so bad that their children had to be taken into foster care. Parents were tested 24/7 using SCRAM Continuous Alcohol Monitoring technology as an alternative to other forms of testing that FDAC routinely carries out, such as blood, urine, and hair strand analysis.
Throughout the course of the pilot, parents wore the anklets to assess their drinking behavior and also demonstrate their commitment to sobriety. Data from the pilot shows that 91.6% of the days those parents were monitored were Sober Days. A Sober Day can be defined as a 24-hour period in which a monitored individual has no confirmed consumption of alcohol and no confirmed attempt to tamper or circumvent testing in order to mask the consumption of alcohol.
According to Judge Crichton, there’s a real benefit to intensive alcohol monitoring. “It provides local authorities with a greater degree of confidence in allowing parents to have contact with children who are in care, and in one or two cases it has allowed children to go home to their parents on the basis that the local authority will know very quickly if the parent chooses to drink.”
What do you think? While the US focuses a great deal of alcohol monitoring programs on drunk drivers, the UK’s early adoption of these technologies is heavily focused on other offenses, alcohol abuse, and the resulting social issues. Do you think substance abuse monitoring is a good fit for family court programs?