Academic journal article Forum on Public Policy: A Journal of the Oxford Round Table

Assessing the Consequences for Children and Families When a Parent Has a Problem with Substance Use and Abuse: Considerations for Social Workers and Other Helping Professionals

Academic journal article Forum on Public Policy: A Journal of the Oxford Round Table

Assessing the Consequences for Children and Families When a Parent Has a Problem with Substance Use and Abuse: Considerations for Social Workers and Other Helping Professionals

Article excerpt

Introduction

"She was a crack ho who did lines on the way to birth me. I am better off where I be than back with her, brud and dad." (1)

The intent of this paper is to contribute to scholarship, knowledge and public policy regarding child maltreatment and parenting capacity within the context of parental substance use and abuse. One goal is to give voice to the children who have moved to, or who are approaching, the threshold for needing a type of protection that is neither governed by the best interest of the parent (even by default) nor by fixation by professionals on an ideology of family preservation--in the face of competing logical possibilities. In their best interest, many children and youth with drug addicted parents, who present repeated risks with known harm, are now more likely to require continuous care and a permanency plan (Brown and Hohman, 2006; Covey, 2007; Hogan, 2007; Schmittroth, 1994).

Among the objectives of this analysis are included:

* to contribute to policy analysis and debate with respect to children's protection programming and practices within the context of repeated parental substance use or abuse, which pose imminent and highly likely risks and associated valid concerns with parental capacity and child-youth care;

* to apply child risk-need-harm assessment knowledge, gained from the qualitative review of 50 cases from one clinical practice, that integrated assessments of parental capacity and care issues associated with substance use, abuse and/or addictions--cases where expert professional opinion was requested by the court and/or by children's services;

* to explore the risk-need implications of parent capacity issues associated with co-occurring (concurrent) disorders--addictions and mental health;

* to analyze some program implications of treating parental addiction as a form of child maltreatment and of defining increasing numbers of children as in need of continuous out of home care.

This policy-practice analysis relies on selected literature and on published studies and analyses within some current and emerging contexts. Part of the analysis is informed an analysis of fifty case files, exploring an available sample of expert assessment processes and classifications associated with parental capacity and child-risk need--where parental capacity has been repeatedly compromised by substance use, abuse and addictions. The analysis applied predetermined broad child-risk-need-harm dimensions, expanded upon within the context of interpretations arising from the case content and findings from the literature, to enable formulation of conclusions regarding how some drug effects, substance use and abuse, and/or drug using lifestyle, interact with parental capacity and child risk-need-harm.

The context of child maltreatment associated with addictions-compromised parenting (2)

Since the early 1900's social workers and cognate disciplines responsible for the protection of children have been concerned with the impact of parental substance use and abuse: on the safety, well being and development of children and youth; on personal and social functioning of parent[s]; as well as on the social functioning of the family (Richmond, 1917). Of note by the 1960's were the findings that, even when the alcoholic parent became sober, children reported their experiences of parental and family problems and risks had not changed significantly and had sometimes become worse (Cork, 1969, 53-56). By the 1970's treatment policies, programs and practices expanded to enable family therapy supports for children of alcoholics (Aubertin and Berlinguet, 1971; Bepko, 2002).

Following from Cork (1969), by the 1980's, those writing from an adult children of alcoholics perspective often emphasized the long term developmental and transgenerational damage of being raised by a parent or parents who had problems with substance abuse; family, group and self-help supports were offered for some children (Woititz, 1990). …

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