Parental Substance Misuse and the
Implications for Children
Lessons from Research and Practice in one Family Centre
Moira Walker and Mary Glasgow
Over the last few years protecting children from harm resulting from their parents' substance misuse has emerged as one of the key challenges facing child welfare services. The number of parents using drugs has increased dramatically, alongside heightened awareness of the potentially damaging effects on children's lives and development. This chapter focuses on what has been learned about how best to support children whose parents are problem drug users. One of the authors is a researcher, the other a practitioner. We start from the premise that research findings and practice experience are complementary sources of knowledge, of equal value and with much to be gained from developing links between the two. In terms of practice we draw primarily on how one family centre goes about safeguarding children and supporting parents affected by drug misuse. We illustrate what the work entails at the micro level, that is engaging, working and talking with parents and children on a day-to-day basis. These accounts are offered in the belief that there is much to be learned from practice, but we make no claim that the ways of working described here are necessarily different or more effective than those adopted in other services or settings. An independent evaluation of the centre has recently been commissioned and will report on the nature and effectiveness of its work in due course.
The terms 'substance' and 'misuse', as used in the chapter, require some comment. 'Misuse' is taken to mean that the level of dependency or consumption of a substance is significant enough to impact on family life and potentially on the care of children. The term 'substance' is used to include drugs, alcohol or