C Fraser, A McIntyre and M. Manby
British Journal of Social Work, 2009, 39(5), 846-866. DOI: 10.1093/bjsw/bcn016
This paper reports on a small-scale research project which used semi-structured interviews and a ‘Draw and Write’ technique to explore the views of parents/carers and children and young people about the impact of parental substance use and implications for services. It was found that most adult participants recognized their need for help and had obtained treatment for their drug/alcohol use. They were often ambivalent or self-critical about their abilities as parents and had tried to combine their substance use with ensuring that the basic needs of their children had been met. Access to methadone prescriptions had helped stabilize the lives of those who had previously been heroin users, and parents' wishes to look after their children properly, or to resume their care, were a powerful motivator for them to stop using drugs/alcohol. The children in the study, who displayed considerable resilience, were aware of the emotional turmoil caused by their parents' substance use and they saw social workers as important people in their lives. It was also found that families in the study either needed substantial help from their extended family, or from social services (now Children's Social Care), or both. The implications of the study for professionals supporting substance-using families are highlighted.