This is the one of the four research papers for today’s debate on: “Parental Substance Misuse: Messages from Research”
Title of the paper: A family affair? Kinship care and parental substance misuse: some dilemmas explored
Abstract: Both the Children Act 1989 and the Human Rights Act 1998 support the principle that children should remain within their birth families wherever possible and that this option must be considered when children are unable to live with their parents. Where parental substance misuse is an issue, family placements, whether formally or informally arranged, are increasingly being used and the support of grandparents, in particular, has been identified as a significant protective factor for children. This paper examines some of the issues that can arise with such placements, particularly in view of the part that substance misuse may play within the wider family system, the impact of parental drug and alcohol use on attachment and child development, and the complex dynamics that can ensue. Drawing on themes emerging from parental substance misuse literature and kinship care research, some practice dilemmas will be explored. While acknowledging the complex aetiology of substance misuse and the dangers of pathologizing family systems in which it is found, some hypotheses about potential risks and challenges will be debated. It will be argued that, although such placements can often provide children with a safe haven, they may demand a specific type of support and monitoring, if children’s welfare is to be safeguarded.