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SAMHSA News - Volume XI, Number 2, Spring 2003
 

Data Reveal Need

Help for Children of Addicted Parents

SAMHSA estimates that approximately 6 million children under age 18 were living with at least one parent who abused or was dependent on alcohol or drugs in 2001, based on a new analysis of data in the Agency's 2001 National Household Survey on Drug Abuse.

To encourage more services to help these children, U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy G. Thompson sent a letter to every substance abuse treatment facility in the country this spring, urging them to use SAMHSA's new Children's Program Kit to develop appropriate programs.

"We must not allow our children to become the forgotten victims of substance abuse," Secretary Thompson said. "By providing appropriate services and programs, we have the power to reduce the fear and confusion that they experience and to provide the knowledge and skills that they need to rebound and succeed as they mature into adults."

SAMHSA's new report, Children Living with Substance-Abusing or Substance-Dependent Parents, shows that 9 percent of children lived with at least one parent who abused or was dependent on alcohol or an illicit drug during the past year. Of these 6 million children, more than 4 million lived with parents who abused or were dependent on alcohol; almost 1 million lived with a parent who abused or was dependent on an illicit drug; and more than 0.5 million had a parent who abused or was dependent on both alcohol and an illicit drug.


The toolkit is designed to provide materials for substance abuse programs so that they can initiate educational support programs for the children of their clients in substance abuse treatment.


According to the SAMHSA report, 10 percent of children age 5 or younger, almost 8 percent of children age 6 to 11, and more than 9 percent of youth age 12 to 17 lived with at least one parent who abused or was dependent on alcohol or drugs.

The Children's Program Kit was developed by SAMHSA childhood mental health professionals and covers a wide variety of topics and practical teaching strategies for elementary, middle, and high school children. The kit also contains information for therapists to distribute to their clients to help parents understand the needs of their children, as well as training materials for substance abuse treatment staff who plan to offer support groups for children.

"Too often when we concentrate on providing treatment for the affected adult we forget the heavy burden that substance abuse lays on the children of those in treatment," said SAMHSA Administrator Charles G. Curie, M.A., A.C.S.W. "Often when the needs of the children are ignored, these children grow into substance-abusing adults. The SAMHSA toolkit addresses the needs of these children, so they can grow into healthy adults with the necessary skills to break the intergenerational cycle of addiction."

The toolkit is designed to provide materials for substance abuse programs so that they can initiate educational support programs for the children of their clients in substance abuse treatment. The curricula will teach children skills such as solving problems, coping, social competence, autonomy, and a sense of purpose and future. The toolkit includes stories and videos.

The report, Children Living with Substance Abusing or Substance Dependent Parents, is available at www.samhsa.gov/oas/2k3/children/children.htm.

For a copy of the Children's Program Kit, contact SAMHSA's National Clearinghouse for Alcohol and Drug Information, at P.O. Box 2345, Rockville, MD 20847-2345. Telephone: 1 (800) 729-6686 (English and Spanish) or 1 (800) 487-4889 (TDD). Or, visit SAMHSA's Web site at www.samhsa.gov.

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