Alcohol and substance misuse affects thousands of individuals across Northern Ireland. There are increasing demands on our Children’s Social Services as a direct result of rising referral rates related to parental alcohol and drug misuse, domestic abuse and mental health issues.
At FASA, we have been looking more specifically at the issue of parental substance misuse, and the negative impact it can have on individuals within a family, specifically children. Approximately 40% of children on the child protection register as there as a direct result of parental substance misuse and 70% of our ‘Looked After Children’ are living away from home as a direct result of parental substance misuse.
‘The term Hidden Harm is used because it vividly describes the situation of many children and young people affected by parental and/or drug misuse’ (DHSSPS, 2009). Quite often children and family members suffer in silence and therefore the damage being done remains ‘Hidden’.
It is estimated that there are approximately 40,000 children in Northern Ireland living with parental substance misuse. It is often difficult for individuals to realise they need help with their substance misuse due to the fear of being judged or the consequences of their disclosure.
Evidence has shown that parental substance misuse can have a short-term and long-term impact on children. For example:
Harmful physical effects on unborn and new born babies
Higher risk of emotional and physical neglect or abuse
Early behavioural and emotional problems
Poor physical and mental health in adulthood
Repeated separation from parents/ multiple care arrangements/ episodes of substitute care Including fostering and care homes.
The Family Matters Project works primarily with families where there is a concern regarding parental substance misuse.There appears to be limited information in Northern Ireland about the precise number of children born to and/or living with parental substance misuse. However it is for certain that parental substance misuse is an area of growing concern. The Family Matter’s Project delivers a vast range of services to families experiencing parental substance misuse. For example;
Group work - Both for parents and young people
Family mediation / group conferencing
Free counselling/ mentoring/ addiction services - available to parents, children and wider family
Parenting support- one to one or in a group setting
Therapeutic / direct work with children - 1 to 1 or in a group
Liaison with other professionals
Interventions will be catered specifically on the families / individuals needs.
Here at FASA we believe that a holistic approach is significant when working with individuals who are misusing a substance. Therefore the Family Matter’s project is designed to support all family members/ carers and extended family in order to achieve a more consistent, settled and safe family life. Some of the principles that underpin our work are:
A non-judgemental/ empathetic approach
A shared commitment to multi-disciplinary working
Targeted prevention work
Frequent review of needs and progress
Building on strengths
Services built on service user feedback
Flexible work ethic on family diversity and needs
A service that values the family & puts the child’s needs first