8.34 Parental Substance Misuse
Last reviewed in May 2020
Next review May 2022
- Maternal Substance Misuse in Pregnancy
- Newborn Babies and Children
- Importance of working in partnership
Substance misuse may include experimental, recreational, poly-drug, chaotic and dependent use of alcohol and / or drugs.
Parental misuse of drugs or alcohol becomes relevant to child protection when misuse of substances impacts on the care provided to child(ren).
Maternal Substance Misuse in Pregnancy
Maternal substance misuse in pregnancy can have serious effects on the health and development of the child before and after birth. Many factors affect pregnancy outcomes, including poverty, poor housing, poor maternal health and nutrition, domestic abuse and mental health. Assessing the impact of parental substance misuse must take account of such factors. Pregnant women (and their partners) must be encouraged to seek early antenatal care and treatment to minimise the risks to themselves and their unborn child.
Newborn Babies and Children
Newborn babies may experience withdrawal symptoms (e.g. high pitched crying and difficulties feeding), which may interfere with the parent / child bonding process. Babies may also experience a lack of basic health care, poor stimulation and be at risk of accidental injury.
Misuse of drugs and/or alcohol is strongly associated with Significant Harm to children, especially when combined with other features such as domestic abuse and parental mental illness.
The risk to child/ren may arise from:
Children whose parent/s are misusing substances may suffer impaired growth and development or problems in terms of behaviour and / or mental / physical health, including alcohol / substance misuse and self-harming behaviour.
Importance of working in partnership
Working in partnership across agencies and services is vital for an effective assessment of risk and to ensure the safety of child(ren).
Professional staff in drug and alcohol services must exchange information with child care social workers, health visitors, school nurses and midwives to be able to assess risks for the unborn baby and child - see Information Sharing and Confidentiality.
Care programme meetings regarding drug or alcohol abusing parents must include consideration of any needs or risk factors for the children concerned. Children's Social Care must be given the opportunity and should contribute to such discussions.
Strategy Discussions and Child Protection Conferences must include workers from any drug and alcohol service involved with the family in question.