Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Understanding parents and their drug use

I am responding to an article in today's advertiser written by Lauren Novak. The main point emphasised by Lauren in this article is that there is an epidemic of ice use amongst parents. That there needs to be a focus by the government on this problem is an understatement. There is no doubt that the excessive or daily use of any illicit drug will prevent a parent from parenting appropriately thus creating a risk for children.

The Child Protection Party experiences drugs as a risk factor in over 90% of the cases we deal with. Recently, a client asked me to seek out an appropriate rehabilitation program for her. I discovered that there was one program where the waiting period was six months and there were a range of other programs which represented drop-in centres rather than a live-in program. It was evident that drug rehabilitation programs were scarce and were not well funded.

Most of the parents I work with, who have a drug problem, which is most of them, are scheduled regular drug tests or have random drug tests regularly. This in itself creates a problem because if a person is unable to make a drug test because they are ill or feeling overwhelmed, the department will automatically suspect that they have been "using". This creates another layer of mistrust.

Some Department of child protection office's have a drug counsellor on the premises with the expectation that parents will attend drug rehabilitation counselling through this service. I think this is a valuable service and it should be offered at every centre where parents are being investigated and assessed. However, accessing the department's designated and preferred counselling service does not create compliance because clients become wary and mistrustful of these services. This means that parents often find it difficult to engage with the counsellor.

Parents find it difficult to cease drug taking when they spend most of their time discussing the drug problem. What needs to be discussed, but seldom is, are the other problems which influence the drug taking. This type of counselling requires the client to trust the worker, and the client to be assured that whatever it is said in front of the worker will remain confidential. Parents believe, and rightfully so, that statements they make to any other professional will find their way back to the department. This therefore prevents parents from being honest and open with the issues that have plagued them for most of their lives.

When a parent encounters a child protection service it is an opportunity for them to confront the traumas and abuse that the client has received, and in order for them to do so they need to be able to trust the service which has engaged with them. If that service though is a service which they do not trust then it is hard to imagine how they can experience a positive outcome.

Ultimately, we need child protection services to be a one-stop shop, where trust is established confidentiality is maintained, support is offered and working together to have the children returned is everyone's goal. It is sad though that the culture does not permit this sort of service to be offered. The culture of blame has to be eradicated and a sense of partnership needs to be established. Working with parents who trust the worker produces some amazing outcomes in a shorter time frame. Working in an environment where there is little trust will always produce negative outcomes.

Back to Lauren's article, the number of tests a parent has to do and the amount of counselling they receive is irrelevant if they fail to believe in and confide in the process. The challenge should be to create environments where people feel safe, where they can openly talk about their concerns without feeling and believing they will be punished for doing so.

There is hardly a parent I speak to who doesn't want to be a better parent for their children. For those of us who have never experienced an ice addiction will never understand the power and influence such an addiction can have on a person. For us to offer simplistic solutions to emotionally intense problems dismisses the experiences of victims. The experiences of many of the people whom I deal with range across the spectrum of all types of trauma. None of which I have ever experienced. Which most of us in the community also have not experienced. However, many of us are prepared to adopt the "get over it" mentality, without ever understanding what it is like for some of these people. By simplifying the problem we are undervaluing the experiences of those people who we want to help.

The Child Protection Party is working desperately to change the narrative so that we all can have a different perspective of what the issues are and how to resolve them. By becoming paternalistic and simplistic we are accomplishing nothing.

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