05 SES 02 A, Effects of Having Been in Care and Substance Abuse
Across Europe, estimates suggest that between 10 % and 30 % of children are impacted by parental substance use, including hazardous drinking (Manning 2009, EMCDDA 2010). A significant body of evidence has detailed the harms to children, including effects on academic outcomes, school attendance and school engagement more generally (Alati et al. 2013). Children may experience a complex range of impacts and may be at risk of physical and emotional and educational neglect and other harms associated with co-occurring issues such as domestic abuse, family conflict, parental mental health issues and poverty (Cleaver et al 2011, Velleman and Templeton 2016, Kuppen et al 2020). Risks can be significant and life-threatening (Homila & Thom 2017). The majority of children removed from parental care have substance using parents, and they are significantly more likely to be permanently adopted (Vanderploeg et al 2007). Nonetheless, most children will continue to be cared for by their birth mothers/ families. Drug users and their children are highly stigmatised and marginalised and strive for normalcy. Children and their caregivers are often reluctant to disclose information about their lived experience. Whilst some interventions have been developed across Europe, including TRAMPOLINE in Germany (Moesgen et al 2019) they largely aim to prevent young people affected by substance use from using substances. There have been limited attempts to focus on the day to day experiences of school of both children and young people and their drug using parents/carers. Similarly, there has been a dearth of research around the experiences of teachers in identifying and responding to children affected by parental substance use.
Education services can offer a range of opportunities for children to flourish despite the myriad of difficulties they may be experiencing. Schools are on the ‘front line’ to ensure the wellbeing and protection of children and young people and then may provide opportunities for safety and the development of protective factors, self-efficacy and relationships with teaching and other school staff. Experiences of education can be transformational, though little research has been conducted around relationships, engagement, and support in school for children and their drug using mothers / carers. School can act as a haven, a normalising, highly structured and supportive space, or can be a ‘nightmare’. School is not often somewhere that children affected by parental substance use (and co-occurring issues) can leave their home experience behind. This paper will consider the day to day lives of children and their carer’s affected by parental substance use and their engagement and relationship with school. This paper seeks to develop an understanding of how caregivers and their children use different forms of formal and informal support within educational settings and teacher’s identification of need and development and delivery of supportive strategies. Using concepts of care and compassion in responding to marginalised groups, specifically Nussbaum’s (2001) theorisation on compassion which offers possibilities of ‘engaging the other’. This paper is drawn from doctoral research with children and families affected by drug use and the experiences of teachers in responding to their needs in a school environment.
This study adopts a qualitative approach (Denzin & Lincoln 1998). Sixteen semi- structured homebased interviews were conducted with eight children and their mothers/ caregivers within seven families. Three discussion groups were held with ten practicing schoolteachers around their knowledge and experience of identifying and responding to children affected by parental drug use in a school setting. The data was analysed using thematic analysis (Braun and Clarke 2006). As well as reporting findings from the study, this paper will examine some methodological and ethical challenges in conducting homebased research with marginalised carers and children. This study employed a range of projective techniques in the interviews, using visually creative methods including ecomaps. Ecomaps were developed in 1975 by Hartman in her research focussing on relational supportive connections in social work practice and they have not been widely used within education to date (Baumgartner and Buchanan 2010). Limitations include the small sample size, though findings will be relevant for further study in this under researched area.
Findings indicate the complexity of family situations experienced by children and young people affected by parental substance use, often characterised by domestic abuse and loss. Relational care and compassionate responses to both children and their mothers/ caregivers are evidenced and provide a secure base for flourishing. For some children and their caregivers, school was indeed a nightmare, a complex environment which was complicated by caring responsibilities, challenges in their home life and framed in hiddenness, strategies to manage stigma. Gendered differences in claims for relational school-based support are apparent. Children and caregivers attempts to ‘be normal’ and ‘stay under the radar’ frame their support relationships both within and out with school. Findings indicate that teachers have compassionate discourses around children’s wellbeing and actively sought to respond to need where they witnessed this. Gaps in knowledge around impacts and the challenges of meeting complex wellbeing needs of children and their families will be outlined. Nussbaum’s articulation of compassion concerned with ensuring the wellbeing of others, enacting human rights and equality and social justice for marginalised children and their caregivers offers, at least, partial moves forward.
Alati, R., Smith, G., Lewis S., Sayal, K., Draper, E., Golding, J. & Gray, R. (2013) Effect of prenatal alcohol exposure on childhood academic outcomes: Contrasting maternal and paternal associations in the ALSPAC study PloS One, 8 74844 Baumgartner, J. & Buchanan, T. (2010). ‘‘I have HUGE stereotypes’’: Using eco-maps to understand children and families. Journal of Early Childhood Teacher Education, 31(2), 173–184. Braun, V., & Clarke, V. (2006). Using thematic analysis in psychology. Qualitative Research in Psychology, 3(2), 77–101. Cleaver, H., Unell, I. and Aldgate, J. (2011) Children’s Needs – Parenting Capacity. Child Abuse: Parental Mental Illness, Learning Disability, Substance Misuse and Domestic Violence (2nd edition). London: The Stationery Office. Denzin N, Lincoln Y. (1998) Entering the field of qualitative research. In: Denzin NK, Lincoln YS (1998) (eds). The Landscape of Qualitative Research: Theories and Issues. Thousand Oaks: Sage1– 34. European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (2010). Children’s Voices: Experiences and Perceptions of European Children on Drug and Alcohol issues available online at http://www.emcdda.europa.eu/system/files/publications/618/TP_ChildrenVoices_206942.pdf Hartman, A. (1978). Diagrammatic assessment of family relationships. Social Casework, 59, 465–476. Holmila, M. and Thom, B. (2017) Harms to children: manifold, serious and long-lasting Drugs: Education Prevention and Policy 24:1 1-2 Kuppens, S., Moore, S., Gross, V., Lowthian, E. and Siddaway, P. (2020) The Enduring Effects of Parental Alcohol, Tobacco, and Drug Use on Child Well-Being: A Multilevel Meta-Analysis. Development and Psychopathology, 32, 2, 765–778 McGovern, R., Gilvarry, E., Addison, M., Alderson, H., Geijer-Simpson, E., Lingam, R., & Kaner, E. (2018). The Association Between Adverse Child Health, Psychological, Educational and Social Outcomes, and Nondependent Parental Substance: A Rapid Evidence Assessment Trauma, Violence, & Abuse 1-14. Moesgen, D., Ise, K., Dyba, J. (2019). Evaluation of the mindfulness-augmented “Trampoline” programme – a German prevention programme for children from substance-involved families tested in a cluster-randomised trial. BMC Public Health 19, 571. Nussbaum, M. (2001). Upheavals of Thought: The Intelligence of Emotions. Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press. Vanderploeg, J. J., Connell, C. M., Caron, C., Saunders, L., Katz, K. H., & Kraemer Tebes, J. (2007). The Impact of Parental Alcohol or Drug Removals on Foster Care Placement Experiences: A Matched Comparison Group Study. Child Maltreatment, 12(2), 125–136. Velleman, R. & Templeton, L. (2016) Impact of Parents Substance Misuse on Children: An Update BJPsych Advances 22:2 108–117
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