Parenting a child affected by parental substance misuse

Parenting a child affected by parental substance misuse

Donald Forrester


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Many children become looked after because they have experienced very difficult and painful experiences in their young lives that have a lasting impact.

This guide explores general issues around substance misuse and children entering care, as well as the impact on children of exposure to substances during pregnancy, and possible effects on children at different ages and stages of development. It provides expert knowledge coupled with facts, figures and guidance presented in a straightforward and accessible style.

Two adoptive parents describe what it is like to parent children who have been affected by parental substance misuse and how this impacts their life as a family.

This book is part of CoramBAAF’s Parenting Matters series which explores many of the health conditions commonly diagnosed in looked after children.

Who is this book for?

A useful book for adopters, those thinking about adopting, foster carers, social work practitioners and all those involved in the care of looked after children. The combination of expert information and first-hand experience will help readers gain knowledge and understanding and make informed decisions.

What you will find in this book

The first half of the book examines general issues surrounding parental substance misuse and children entering care. The book then focuses on the impact on children of exposure to substances during pregnancy, including both specific effects (such as Foetal Alcohol Syndrome) and wider issues (such as genetic susceptibilities). Implications for parents, carers and professionals are outlined.

In the second half, two adopters describe their experience of parenting children affected by parental substance misuse and how this affected, and continues to affect, day-to-day family life.

‘Hamish was a bit of a bruiser and grew to be larger than average. Sadly, this didn’t do him any favours, as everybody mistook him for an older child and expected more of him. When he came to us, he did not know how to play and had very limited speech. Our concerns were ignored or dismissed as he was “just lazy” or a “typical boy”, slow to learn. We eventually managed to get him speech therapy, which paid off: it is now hard to get a word in! He was very late potty training and we still have issues with bedwetting and soiling today, which apparently is not uncommon in children with FAS.’  Sally Baker


Donald Forrester:
Professor Donald Forrester is currently Director of CASCADE: Children's Social Care Research and Development Centre at Cardiff University. In his time as a child and family social worker, he worked with many families in which there was parental substance misuse. Donald has published widely in this area, including key studies identifying the extent of the problem, outcomes for children and a body of work exploring effective practice with parents who have drug or alcohol problems.