The Establishment Of The Children’S
The establishment of the Children’s National Service Framework’s main goal is to reduce inequalities in health and social services as well as upgrading the overall standard of such services. This scheme specifically concentrates on the needs of children of drug and alcohol abusers (Lachman and Vickers, 2004).
Whilst it must be acknowledged that the Children Act 1989 clearly defines neglect, emotional abuse, sexual and physical abuse as the four categories by which children are assessed when there are concerns for their wellbeing, we can therefore say that within the context of parental substance misuse these four categories are applicable. There is evidence of parental substance misuse in 57% of serious case reviews which include serious or fatal child abuse (Brandon et al, 2006). A study of four London boroughs highlights that almost two thirds (62%) of all children subject to care proceedings had parents who misused substances (defines neglect, emotional abuse, sexual and physical abuse as the four categories by which children are assessed when there are concerns for their wellbeing, we can therefore say that within the context of parental substance misuse these four categories are applicable).
It is important to state that the concept analysis will be addressed from perspectives that enables fluidity in the dissertation by the evaluation of the impact of both pre-natal and post-natal development in children. A parent’s key role can be described as providing care and support to children, however, this experience may be altered if a parent is under the influence of alcohol or opioids (Forrestor, 2000).This in turn may cause parents to neglect their child as their primary focus becomes obtaining drugs and alcohol. The biggest risk posed to children is that parents, when under the influence of drugs or alcohol, are unable to keep their children safe (including overlay through co-sleeping and accidents caused through lack of supervision).
Subsequently, a parent’s capacity is weakened by the effects of substances as they are not able to pay attention to the sufficient needs of their child. Parental substance misuse is a well-known issue within society and can be identified heavily within the social work practice. It is well established that parental substance misuse is a ‘creature of social work professionals’ caseloads – with neglect, emotional and physical abuse the most common concerns for children who are subject to child protection plans. They have been dubbed to be one of the ‘toxic trios’, often co-existing with domestic violence and mental health problems (Forrester and Harwin, 2011; Brandon et al, 2010).
The toxic trio consists of substance misuse, parental mental health issues, and domestic violence. These three factors are perceived to be indicators of increased risk of harm to children and young people. 50, 000 to more than 2 million children are affected by parental mental ill health (NSPCC, 2014). In relation to contributing to a child’s developmental needs, parental mental illness can be identified as not having an adverse effect. However, it should be the responsibility of the social workers or any professional involved with parental substance misuse to assess the implications for each individual child in the family.
The toxic trio has been identified by scholars as having a superior impact on children than a singular parental disorder which exists in isolation would. The combination of the trio has been clearly linked with increased risks of abuse and neglect of children and young people (Cleaver et al, 2011). A review of serious case reviews (2007-2011) found that nearly ¾ of children lived in families where two or more of the toxic trio were present (Ofsted, 2011).
Alcohol and drug dependence can be linked to depression which leads to poor and inconsistent parenting, which as a result, can inhibit a parent’s ability to respond to their child’s emotional care and offer consistent care (M. Solis et al., 2012). Alcohol and drugs can also be used as a coping mechanism whilst being in an abusive relationship. Furthermore, domestic violence within a family where the parental substance is prominent may form an inconsistent and unpredictable environment for children.
Neglect is one of the main forms of abuse. Parental substance misuse specifically can be identified as being a key predictor of reoccurring child abuse and neglect (McNichol & Tash, 2001). In addition, it has been estimated that nearly 60% of drug-exposed infants were the subject of subsequent substantiated reports of abuse or neglect, in contrast with just over 8% of control children (Kelley, 1992).
Over 50%-80% of children are removed from homes due to neglect. Those who are involved in the child welfare system have at least one substance-abusing parent (Solis, 2012). However, the evidence surrounding a child placed in foster care placement has mixed outcomes depending on the child. There is still a sufficient amount of evidence which highlights that placement instability has on child development (Messina et al., 2018). As such, there are many who advocate for more emphasis on intervention and family preservation.
Nevertheless, from the perspective of the parent, the primary focus and priority becomes obtaining drugs, alcohol and not looking after their child. The parental capacity is therefore weakened by the effects of the substance, thus the reasoning for parents being able to not pay sufficient attention to children needs. The concept of parental substance misuse hindering a child’s development is vital as this may be due to social influences such as crime and poverty (Kroll and Taylor, 2000).
Additionally, parental substance misuse may have a direct impact and undermine a child’s development through their attainment and performance within education. This in turn contributes to the child’s ability to form attachments, family dynamics, and relationships as well as having a negative effect on a child’s self-esteem, self-worth and confidence. In the UK, there are estimated to be between 250,000 and 350,000 dependent children living with parental drug misuse. Multiple drug use is associated with socioeconomic deprivation and other factors that affect the ability to parent a child, resulting to referrals to social services in a number of different contexts (Hidden Harm, 2003).
Between 780,000 and 1.3 million children are affected by parental alcohol problems. (The Cabinet Office Strategy Unit, 2004). However, this is likely to be an underestimate because of stigma and secrecy. (Harwin, Madge and Heath 2009). Parental substance misuse can cause considerable harm, this includes direct inadequate supervision and poor accommodation (Goodman, 2007). Children are at risk from emotional and physical neglect as they grow up. They also risk developing emotional and social problems later in life.
The concept of parental substance misuse can be identified further through the perspectives of social workers who have worked in drug and alcohol recovery services, adoption and fostering and in frontline child protection and have had to intervene under Section 47 of the Children’s Act 1989.