Investigating the impact of family drug and alcohol courts on parental offending: a data linkage study

Project Dates

October 2022 to September 2024



Project Summary

Family drug and alcohol courts (FDACs) are an innovative holistic problem-solving approach to care proceedings. Research has found that by treating the parental problems that led to the care proceedings during the court case, family reunification rates and parental substance misuse cessation rates are higher than in ordinary care proceedings. International evidence confirms the same results.

An important gap in evidence is the impact of FDACs (or their international equivalent 'family drug treatment courts') on offending behaviour, although, it is known that parents who are involved in care proceedings frequently have offending records too. The proposed study offers a major opportunity to redress this knowledge deficit.

Study aims:

  1. To establish whether receipt of FDAC is associated with changes in maternal and paternal offending and reoffending.
  2. To establish, whether parents who accessed FDACs continue to have higher rates of sustainable family reunification, after taking into account offending profiles, than those who went through ordinary care proceedings and services.
  3. To demonstrate the potential and feasibility of carrying out research that links and analyses sensitive administrative data, particularly data from courts on vulnerable populations, and that uses person-level data, to create a new longitudinal cohort study.


To address these aims, we will undertake a 24-month data linkage study based on an analysis of secondary data from existing data sources. It will bring together individual parental records from three administrative data sources, FDAC, Cafcass (Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service) and the PNC (Police National Computer records) to create a longitudinal cohort study, comprising approximately 1700 parents.  

Previous FDAC research can be found here: Family Drug and Alcohol Court (FDAC) Evaluation Research

Research Team

The Lancaster Team

Judith Harwin, Professor in Socio-Legal Studies, Co-director of the Centre for Child and Family Justice Research , Principal Investigator

Dr Bachar Alrouh, Research Fellow and Co-Investigator

Dr Claire Hargreaves, Senior Research Associate

The University of Central Lancashire team

Dr Les Humphreys, Senior Lecturer in Criminal Justice and Policing, Co-investigator  

Dr Charlotte Barlow, Reader in Criminal Justice and Policing

External Collaborators

The Centre for Justice Innovation team

Stephen Whitehead, Head of Data and Evidence

Vicki Morris, Deputy Director 

Members of the Research Advisory Group

HHJ Carol Atkinson, Designated Family Judge for East London and Lead Judge for research across Family Justice

Iain Brennan, Professor of Criminology, Hull University

Karen Broadhurst FAcSS (Chair) Professor of Social Work, Co-director of the Centre for Child and Family Justice Research and Co-director of the Data Science Institute, Lancaster University

Caroline Cooper, Criminal and Civil Justice System Consultant (U.S. and International) and General Practice of Law. Previously Research Professor and Director, Justice Programs Office, School of Public Affairs, American University, Washington D.C

Brian Francis, Professor of Social Statistics, Lancaster University

Anna Kawalek, Senior Lecturer in Law, Leeds Beckett University

Lauren Kocan, Head of Children’s Rights and Family Justice, Department for Education 

Tom McNeil, Assistant Police & Crime Commissioner for the West Midlands

Amy Summerfield, Head of Evidence and Partnerships, Data and Analysis, Ministry of Justice

Saif Ullah, Senior Research and Evaluation Manager, Cafcass. 


Professor Judith Harwin

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