National Alliance For Drug Endangered Children

Help. Hope. Support.

Donate Today

Find Out How You Can Help

Innovations In The Assessment And Treatment Of Families With Parental Substance Misuse: Implications For Child Protection

Dawe, Sharon.; McMahon, Thomas J. – 2018

Children living in families with parental substance misuse face considerable adversity and are at high risk of poor outcomes that include emotional and behavioural problems, poor school attainment and early use of alcohol and drugs. However, parental substance misuse typically co‐occurs with other complex difficulties (see Bromfield et al., 2010), including mental health problems, experiences relating to parents’ own childhood and current financial disadvantage. These families are often marginalised, sole‐parent households living in impoverished neighbourhoods characterised by criminal activity (Dawe et al., 2006). Given the complexities and risks present when these problems coalesce, it is not surprising that research consistently shows that children exposed to the adversities associated with parental addiction are at heightened risk of child maltreatment (e.g. Chaffin et al., 1996; Kelleher et al., 1994). When parents are misusing substances, the family is more likely to become involved with the child welfare system, children are more likely to be removed from the home and they are less likely to be reunified (Canfield et al., 2017). Moreover, although many parents avoid seeking treatment because they fear losing custody of their children, sustained engagement in substance use treatment, particularly family‐oriented substance use treatment, may decrease the probability of removal and increase the probability of reunification if children must be removed (e.g. Green et al., 2007; Grella et al., 2009). The complexity of the problems for families involved in the child protection system because of parental substance misuse has been documented repeatedly, across cultures, for more than 20 years in a range of reviews, reports and inquiries (e.g. Dawe et al., 2006). Sadly, the problems are often chronic in nature and engagement in substance use treatment and child protection systems is often recurrent.