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Effects of Drug and Alcohol Abuse on Children

There are an estimated 463,000 children in the foster care system in our country. Sadly, these kids are shuffled from home to home because their parent can not properly care for them. Many of these kids are where they are because of the drug or alcohol addiction of their parents.

Children Taken Out of the Home of an Addict

Addiction can wreak havoc on a family, and no one knows that better than the children of these families. Children of drug addicts and alcoholics often suffer the consequences for the rest of their lives. Sometimes it is the lucky ones who get taken out of their home and placed with a loving foster family. But for a child, being taken out of the home, even if it is a dysfunctional one full of substance abuse, yelling, violence, or neglect, is traumatic. Even if their home life is not structured, happy, or even safe, being taken away from the biological family and placed with foster or adoptive families is a hard transition. These kids tend to act out in fear or confusion, may have behavior problems, problems in school, and have trouble bonding with anyone.

A child who has been taken away from a drug or alcohol abusing parent will not suddenly have a good life. There are many hurdles to overcome on the road to recovery for the child of alcoholic or drug addict. They may find themselves bounced from foster home to foster home, and may not be able to settle in with a family at all before they become an adult.

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Children that Stay in the Home

For many children, however, their family’s problem is not known to outsiders, and there is no help offered to them. A child living with a drug abusing or alcoholic parent may have to endure unthinkable experiences. Emotional abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse, and neglect occur too often for these families. Even though they may be going through tremendous turmoil at home, these children will cover up for a parent’s behavior, will assume the responsibility of the adult of the household, and will do all they can to keep the addiction a secret from the rest of the world. After all, in the mind of a child, being at home with mom or dad, as awful as it may be, is still better than being shipped off to live with strangers.

These situations also have lasting repercussions on children. A child who grows up with a drug abusing or alcoholic parent is more likely to struggle in school, have behavior problems, be withdrawn, and have low self esteem. They are also more likely to become alcoholics or drug addicts themselves someday.

When people begin abusing drugs or alcohol, they are most likely not thinking of the long-lasting effects it will have on their child someday. They are thinking about themselves, how they are going to make it through the day, and what will make them feel better. If only they could take a moment and look at their kids, and see the life of pain that lies ahead for their child, maybe more people would think twice.


Foster Care Statistics

Center on Addiction and the Family

National Association for Children of Alcoholics

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