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LIVING WITH AN ELEPHANT: DRUG MISUSE, PARENTING & CHILD WELFARE BRYNNA KROLL Senior Consultant, ARTEC Enterprises Ltd TWO YEAR RESEARCH PROJECT ( MARCH.

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Presentation on theme: "LIVING WITH AN ELEPHANT: DRUG MISUSE, PARENTING & CHILD WELFARE BRYNNA KROLL Senior Consultant, ARTEC Enterprises Ltd TWO YEAR RESEARCH PROJECT ( MARCH."— Presentation transcript:

1 LIVING WITH AN ELEPHANT: DRUG MISUSE, PARENTING & CHILD WELFARE BRYNNA KROLL Senior Consultant, ARTEC Enterprises Ltd TWO YEAR RESEARCH PROJECT ( MARCH ) FUNDED BY THE DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH DRUG MISUSE RESEARCH INITIATIVE ROUTES DISCLAIMER: THE VIEWS EXPRESSED HERE ARE THOSE OF THE RESEARCHERS & NOT NECESSARILY OF THE DEPT. OF HEALTH

2 WHAT WE DID :STRUCTURE OF STUDY Case record analysis of files of 28 children & young people on CPR where PDM is an issue Interviews with children, young people, parents & grandparents Interviews with a range of social welfare professionals from voluntary & statutory drug services, statutory child care & primary health care Focus groups involving parents and professionals

3 WHY WE DID IT : RESEARCH OBJECTIVES To promote the welfare & visibility of children with DMPs by improving inter- agency assessment & intervention To identify the needs of children, young people & parents & obtain their views about services To explore professionals views of dilemmas & challenges where PDM is an issue To develop shared principles to inform protocols for good practice

4 THE ELEPHANT IN THE LIVING ROOM The substance as a family member Living with an elephant Denial and the challenge to childrens perceptions User/substance relationship as familys central organising principle Implications for attachment and parents psychological availability

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6 ABOUT THE CHILDREN & YOUNG PEOPLE 42 children & young people interviewed aged between 4-20 yrs ( 9 under 10;14 between 10-14; 18 between &; 1 aged 20 ; 38 clinical; 4 community) 26 girls & 16 boys living in both rural & urban areas- 40 white; 2 dual heritage 15 living with a parent, 5 in a secure unit, 14 in foster care, 8 with extended family Majority of children were from single parent households & had to cope with a range of parental problems in addition to PDM (alcohol misuse, mental health problems, DV) Significant majority of children had anger management problems, had been excluded from school and been involved in bullying, fighting Just over 50% aged & 25% aged had used drugs &alcohol themselves, most at worrying levels Parents /grandparents of 12 of these children also interviewed ;some sibling groups also included

7 WHAT THEY TOLD US: HOWEVER BADLY YOU WANT YOURSELF TO BE NUMBER ONE, ITLL NEVER HAPPEN Drugs always come first with implications for attachment & trust PDM generates a range of powerful emotions PDM & caring for children dont mix – Dont do it if you have kids Managing parental responsibilities was common Poverty and squalor caused shame & embarrassment Education often compromised, although school a safe haven for some Life is full of fears – of losing parent /being taken away/parent being imprisoned/ parent dying Life is often dangerous & frightening; witnessing violence was common

8 I DONT WANT TO TURN OUT THAT WAY Parents were idealised & excused, despite impact on children Children worn down by broken promises, multiple disappointments, failed treatment or precarious recovery Stigma attached to children of drug users in small, rural communities - there goes the junkies kid- I bet shell turn out the same. Children afraid that drug misuse is catching Children scared to tell anyone but desperate for someone to notice Own alcohol/drug use as pain management/ way of coping but also a way of connecting with drug using parents

9 YOUVE JUST GOT TO CARRY ON WITH IT, HAVENT YOU? Importance of grandparents & close friends(& their parents) as sources of support Importance of supportive professionals (social workers, teachers etc) What doesnt kill you makes you strong – keen survival instinct & desire to make something of their lives I just thought they cant do anything –if children have failed to fix parent, can others succeed ? Young people offered insightful, sensitive advice for other children, as well as important messages to professionals & parents

10 ABOUT THE PARENTS & GRANDPARENTS 40 parents & 7 grandparents interviewed + one small focus group Sample ( largely clinical ) comprised 13 fathers, 2 grandfathers, 27 mothers & 5 grandmothers, living in both rural & urban areas–all white Majority of parents were single parents with a range of problems in addition to PDM (alcohol misuse, mental health problems, DV) both in the present and the past Two pairs of grandparents & one single grandmother were caring for their grandchildren full time after CYPS intervention A significant majority of parents had experienced their own parents substance misuse & had had traumatic childhoods Heroin was the main drug used with some amphetamine, cannabis and alcohol misuse

11 WHAT THEY TOLD US ABOUT DRUG USE & PARENTING : I USED (DRUGS) TO GET BY, NOT TO GET HIGH Most parents acknowledged that drug misuse & parenting dont mix High levels of guilt & denial about impact on children Drug use as a management strategy for other problems – domestic violence, mental health problems, loss Parents rarely asked WHY they use – focus is on managing use rather than on any help /counselling for the reasons behind it Important to understand the why of misuse – not just the what and how much Roots of use often in trauma, abuse or lack of emotional support from parents in childhood or adolescence Link between parental use and their own parents substance/ mental health issues Drug misuse causes devastation in family networks, with grandparents often left baffled, guilt ridden and helpless

12 WHAT THEY TOLD US ABOUT SERVICES: (I WAS) NOT GOOD ENOUGH, NOT BAD ENOUGH... Parents often fall through gaps in services due to thresholds for drug intervention & child welfare Inaccessible services for drug misuse +poor rural transport militates against punctuality Too many appointments & meetings undermines engagement & motivation Importance of personality of worker, being given time to talk, workers being honest and straight and not blaming parents Importance of key professional who orchestrates inter- agency communication Grandparents/kin rarely get support when they take over – even when children clearly need help

13 THEYRE TRYING TO CATCH YOU OUT ! ….they wanted me to fail….they wanted to take him off me……everything I said was twisted…. Youve got to be perfect – more than good enough ; you can never have any problems or admit to relapses or cravings Haunted by history - they were judgemental & thought straight away that we were crap parents. Lack of consistency re. SW response – why do some people get to keep their children and others not? Inter-agency working – not consistent More understanding of drug use required – Solve the problems in the life & the drugs will drop off! Cases closed too fast- support needed beyond immediate recovery/drug use management

14 I HOPE EVERYONE LISTENS! WE ALL NEED HELP I want someone to stop my mum & dad smoking heroin ( Rhondin,7) The children just need to be taken away from it, really(Mac,16) Social workers should definitely be more emotionally supportive – most children have only got their social worker(Lizzie,20) Try to help the parents more (April,17) Look for the person inside the junkie (Annabel', parent) Its so much more than the drug use that needs to be addressed (Mary, parent) Its important to see us as a family (Matt, parent)

15 A MESSAGE TO PROFESSIONALS They should be helping the parents….and help the children get through whats going on in the house….they should sit down and listen to children who have been through it, instead of thinking It's our rules, we have to do it by our rules & not listen to the children…they should listen to what the children think and what the children feel…..just because people are children doesnt mean they dont know whats right and whats wrong…..we know cos weve seen it – they dont know what its like living with someone who has been using…….. ( Harley,15)


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