How To Help Children Impacted by Parental Addiction

A guide to being a compassionate and supportive presence, from the Addiction Policy Forum

August 24, 2022
Caretaker and child with guitar

People going through addiction deserve treatment and compassion, which can make this question as delicate as it is urgent: What should you do if you see there are kids involved? How can you help the child of a parent with a substance use disorder to process their stress and trauma — and to understand they are cared for and supported?

The Addiction Policy Forum, in coordination with Warren County, Ohio, has published a brief guide to help the adults in a child’s life — teachers, coaches, pastors, friends, relatives, neighbors and others — answer this question.

The publication “Helping Children Impacted by Parental Substance Use Disorder” underscores what’s at stake: In the U.S., more than 8 million children have at least one parent with an SUD, and since 2000, 1.2 million children have entered the foster care system because of parental SUDs. Children impacted by parental addiction are more likely to hear fighting, witness crime and suffer from poverty, and the resulting “toxic stress” can affect a child’s brain development.

The project, supported by a grant from the Bureau of Justice Assistance, is intended to equip adults to communicate important messages to these children: You didn’t cause the problem, you are not alone, you should celebrate yourself. The toolkit also provides advice to law enforcement officers for safeguarding children during a parent’s arrest or overdose. Read the guidelines at the Addiction Policy Forum site or in this document.

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