The problem of substance abuse is one of the most acute problems of society. According to the statistics, the percentage of child welfare cases dealing with parental drug or alcohol abuse ranges from 50% to 80% (Research to Practice Notes: Working with parental substance misuse,2010). It is estimated that more than eight million children in the USA live in families with at least one drug or alcohol addicted parent (Austin & Osterling, 2005). The children from such families are at the increased risk of possible unfavorable outcomes.
The analysis of various sources dealing with the problem of substance abuse shows that an effective preventive activity is impossible without working with families. There may be several stages of intervention for a family facing this problem.
On the preparatory stage, the role of a social worker is to collect information about the members of the family and to generate a scheme of work. The reason for the beginning of such kind of activity may be the processing information concerning a violation of rights of a child in a family. From the moment of the obtaining of such information, it is recommended for a social worker to keep records of all the relevant facts in chronological order. These notes will be useful for the elaboration of a plan of actions. The acquisition of information aims the generalization of findings and the evaluation of possible negative outcomes for such a family.
At the initial stage, it is also very important to reveal the problem. As a rule, there are several indicators, which are helpful to identify the family with an alcohol, or drug addicted parent. They are “financial problems despite an adequate income, personality changes and inconsistent behaviors, frequent automobile and other incidents, altered mental status of a person consisted with alcohol or other drug intoxication” (Kropenske & Howard, 1994, p.15).
When the problem is identified, the aim of a social worker is to come in contact with the members of the family. The establishment of the contact is one of the most important phases of activity, which to a great extent determines the success of the future intervention for the family. At this stage, a social worker who establishes a contact often faces hostility, rudeness and suspicion. It is very important to defuse the tension and to reconcile the members of the family. With this purpose, a social worker who makes visits to the family has to establish a contact for the further cooperation even if the members of the family do not encourage sympathy. During the first contact, parents often feel shy and guilty. Subconsciously they realize their guilt and they are ready to admit it.
It is very important for a social worker not to evaluate the members of the disadvantaged family. It is inadmissible to charge the parents with the existing problem. If the members of the family feel that a social worker has a sincere preoccupation with the problem, in most cases they will agree for cooperation.
On the diagnostic stage, the aim of a social worker is to evaluate the health conditions of the members of the family, their psychological states and basic needs. On this stage, it is also important to reveal the requirements of the child and the desire and possibilities of the parents to satisfy them.
It is necessary to take into account that the main problems of the families suffering from substance abuse are mainly psychological. Apart from this, there may be also problems with health. Alcoholism or drug addiction may also cause financial difficulties.
Working with such family requires delicacy and confidentiality. In the course of intervention, a social worker obtains information the disclosure of which may be rather dangerous for the members of the family.
A social worker has to establish the goal to make the alcohol or drug addicted parent to refuse from these vicious habits. Within this goal realization, it is necessary to provide the parent with the key information concerning health hazards of alcohol or drugs. Moreover, it is important to explain the inadmissibility of drug or alcohol consumption by children.
The next stage of the intervention for the family suggests the detailed elaboration of a home visiting program. It should be noted that “home visiting is not a single intervention but rather a strategy for delivering a range of services” (Research to Practice Notes: Working with parental substance misuse, 2010, p.7). During the plan elaboration, it is necessary to consider different social aspects of the family with the substance abuser, such as its financial state, educational level of its members and their race bracket. Gender differences should be also taken into consideration. Austin and Osterling (2005) state that “women who abuse alcohol or other drugs typically experience different circumstances than men and have unique needs that should be considered in the design of substance abuse interventions” (p.5).
Every social worker should realize that “alcohol and other drug abuse can occur in any family, rich or poor, educated or uneducated, across the entire ethnic and cultural spectrum” (Kropenske & Howard,1994,p.101). Moreover, there are frequent cases of denial of the existing problem by a substance abuser, which “can seriously interfere with the process of rehabilitation and recovery” (Kropenske & Howard,1994,p.101)
It is possible to conclude that there is no simple and easy way to this problem. Apart from professional competence, intervention for a family requires patience and utmost self-repaint.
Austin, M., & Osterling, K. (2005). Substance Abuse Interventions for Parents Involved in the Child Welfare System: Evidence and Implications. Web.
Kropenske, V., & Howard, J. (1994). Protecting Children in Substance-Abusing Families. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Administration Children and Families, 5(1), 1-145. Web.
Research to Practice Notes: Working with parental substance misuse. (2010). Web.