Home > Children whose parents use drugs promising practices and recommendations.

Giacomello, Corina (2022) Children whose parents use drugs promising practices and recommendations. Strasbourg: Council of Europe International Cooperation Group on Drugs and Addictions.

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External website: https://www.coe.int/en/web/pompidou/children

In 2021, the Pompidou Group introduced a subject that so far has not received enough attention: children whose parents use drugs. The impact of parental substance use is reflected in the children’s development outcomes and in their daily lives. In order to protect children, it is necessary to address their needs as holders of human rights and make sure they grow up in a healthy and protected environment.

This project addresses both the children and parents affected by substance use while focusing on the programmes, services and practices in place in the different states to address the issue. It includes a wide range of interventions in the field of programmes aimed at families and children, services for women who use substances and are mothers, dependence treatment services that take into account parental responsibilities and the children’s needs and particular situation, as well as shelters for female victims and survivors of violence who use substances.

The project on children whose parents use drugs has been carried out in two phases: the first one started in November 2020 and was completed in February 2021. The second phase has been implemented throughout 2021 with the involvement of 11 countries (Croatia, Cyprus, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Mexico, Poland, Romania, Switzerland and Turkey).

Chapter two “Family and children oriented services that take into account drug use” looks at a wide range of practices from Cyprus, Iceland, Ireland and Italy that span from prevention programmes with children to intense interventions with parents and children in very vulnerable contexts and situations in between. The programmes and practices aim at providing children with skills, opportunities and safe spaces, while addressing families’ complex needs through systemic and holistic interventions in the attempt to maintain family unity while increasing parental skills, attachment, communication and resilience for both parents and children.

Chapter three “Programmes and services for families and children in drug treatment settings and related services, including data gathering and advocacy” looks at those cases where children are actively addressed by treatment services, not as users but as subjects exposed to particular vulnerabilities because of parental substance use disorder. Iceland’s and Ireland’s programmes, as well as Ireland’ s data gathering system constitute the examples that are more specific and that can open perspectives for other countries. Mexico’s case also sheds light on integration and support for children with parents who use substances into the community through treatment services and Croatia’s approach confirms the need of bringing families and children into the therapeutic alliance. The example form Switzerland reinforces one of the points at which arrives this report, that is the need to produce and disseminate materials and information available for children (differentiated by age group and gender-sensitive), parents and professionals. This section also includes a brief review of the a practice from the UK, a country which is not included in this study but that was referred to by informants from the Irish Silent Voices Campaign.

Chapter four “Treatment services targeted at pregnant women, mothers and their children” includes, as explained by its title, residential communities for women who are pregnant or have children and where they can actually live with their children. It reports the examples of Czech Republic, Croatia, Cyprus, Greece, Ireland, Italy and Poland These services have been created out of the growing evidence that the key element for women to enter treatment was to be able to take their children with them. The chapter also includes a recent protocol from Cyprus aimed at securing that women who are pregnant or have recently given birth are referred to the right services through a liaison midwife able to generate a relationship of trust and accompaniment. This practice is currently been looked
into by Croatia as well.

Chapter five “Services for women who are victims and survivors of violence and use drugs, and their children” highlights a much needed yet still not mainstreamed practice, that is, the admittance of women who use substances into shelters for women victims and survivors of violence and their children. Through the examples of Cyprus and Ireland, this section illustrates that dependence should not be a barrier to give women and their children protection.

Chapter six includes an analysis of findings and recommendations that set the path for future research and interventions, with the hope of engaging countries in pursuing the interchange and development of policies and programmes and which are reproduced in the report

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