How I got my children back

This video from the BBC highlights a new approach to family court in the UK and shares the story of John, a man whose children were removed from his care and who went through this court system to get them back. John developed substance abuse issues in his youth, he says, and at the age of 30 became a parent. When his daughter was young, John said, he and his daughter's mother tried to "do normal life" but "it wasn't doable" due to their drug and alcohol problems. When his daughter was 7 years old, she went into the care of family members. This was the catalyst for his daughter's mother to get treatment for her substance use problems, but John continued to use and became homeless. He did not see his daughter for a few years, he said. Then, he and his new partner, who was also a drug user, became pregnant and gave birth to a baby boy, who was immediately taken into care. "That's when I knew that this is really serious," said John.

John was assigned to a new kind of court in the UK, the Family Drug and Alcohol Court (FDAC), founded by a judge in 2008 who, for years, had witnessed children being taken away from their parents in regular family court. "The system, historically, has been built on an adversarial process," said the judge, "which just deals with the problem that it sees. It sees a child not being taken care of and so the system removes the child to a safe place." The FDAC has taken a different approach. They bring the parents in, without lawyers, every two weeks and seek to find solutions to the problems at hand, in partnership with the parents, social work team, and other experts and professionals in the fields of substance abuse, domestic violence, psyschology, and more. This team approach offers more intervention and support to keep children in families. It is intensive and costly, says the video, but has been shown to have better results. John worked with the FDAC for about a year and half and had his son returned to his care. He also was able to rebuild a relationship with his daughter.