american addiction centers photo

Drug Rehab Centers for Those With Children: Family Rehab Programs

9 Sections
4 min read
Sometimes the fear of losing your child may be a barrier to finding addiction treatment. Find out why rehabilitation is important and why your child can actually help you during your treatment process.
What you will learn:
Understanding the fear of losing custody of your child.
Treatment options for parents that include their children.
Learn more about family therapy and play therapy.
Why call us?
Jump to Section
  • Addiction and Family: Causes & Impacts
  • Fear of Losing Children as a Barrier to Seeking Treatment
  • Take Our Substance Abuse Self-Assessment
  • Providing for Parents
  • Drug Rehab for Parents with Older Children
  • Family Therapy and Play Therapy
  • Helping Parents Be Better Parents
  • Finding & Affording Rehab
  • Sources

A substance abuse problem not only affects the individual abusing drugs or alcohol; it affects every aspect of the person’s life, including relationships, family, and children.
Mom with daughter in therapy session

For that reason, treating people with children requires a distinct approach. People in recovery benefit from having their sons and daughters involved in the therapeutic and rebuilding processes. To that end, drug rehab centers for those with children may employ creative and comprehensive methods to make recovery a bonding and healing experience for a family that has been rocked by addiction.

Spanish Version

Addiction and Family: Causes & Impacts

The problem of parents abusing substances while sharing a home with their children is a big one. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration reports that about 1 in 8 children age 17 or younger live in households with at least one parent who has a substance use disorder. These children tend to be of lower socioeconomic status than children of parents who don’t have an addiction.1

Many factors can contribute to a parent or a guardian using drugs or alcohol. Raising a child (or a teenager) is a stressful experience in and of itself; if combined with other factors, such as financial difficulties, pre-existing mental health conditions, and relationship difficulties (or not having a partner with whom to share responsibilities), a frustrated and depressed parent can resort to drinking and taking drugs to find some escape.

The damage caused by a drug addiction in the family can run very deep. Children who come from addiction-affected households have more difficulties in school, social environments, and family functioning than children who come from households without addiction. They are also more likely to develop mental and substance use disorders themselves.1

Fear of Losing Children as a Barrier to Seeking Treatment

Parents often avoid seeking help for their addictions because they’re afraid that their children will be taken away from them.

A 2015 survey found that 73.3% of women reported that they were afraid of being identified as substance abusers. One of the scenarios they were most afraid of was losing custody of their newborns or older children.2

Descriptive Text

However, some research has found that the threat of losing their child can motivate parents to seek treatment.3

The truth is, several factors may ultimately determine whether a substance-abusing parent will lose custody of their child. Every case is different. In addition to substance abuse, other factors that place a parent at risk of losing their child include:4

  • A history of childhood abuse and neglect, exposure to negative events, and domestic violence.
  • Poor education.
  • Teen pregnancy.
  • Single parenthood.
  • Chronic unemployment.
  • Severity of addiction.
  • Presence of co-occurring mental health disorders.

Despite the risk of losing custody, seeking treatment for an addiction is usually the right decision for the parent and the child—especially if the parent is involved in a court case. Beyond the benefits to the parent’s and the child’s health and well-being, seeking treatment can show the court that the parent is serious about getting help, and completing treatment can increase the chance that the person retains custody of their child.

Take Our Substance Abuse Self-Assessment

Take our free, 5-minute substance abuse self-assessment below if you think you or someone you love might be struggling with substance abuse. The evaluation consists of 11 yes or no questions that are intended to be used as an informational tool to assess the severity and probability of a substance use disorder. The test is free, confidential, and no personal information is needed to receive the result.

Providing for Parents

Drug rehab centers that offer services geared toward parents will often ask mothers and fathers to include their children as participants in the treatment process and sometimes in therapy sessions. This provides an opportunity for parent and child to discuss the difficulty and trauma caused by the addiction, but in a safe and controlled environment more conducive to positive and healthy outcomes.

Some facilities provide different levels of accommodation for children. They may offer daycare services; others might even provide educational or residential services and a safe place to stay while the children’s parents go through counseling (though few facilities have such services). The programs may help children understand their parent’s addiction and realize that it’s not their fault.

Yet other facilities might reach out to extended family (such as grandparents, uncles and aunts, or godparents), and work with these people on arranging accommodations, childcare, or education services for the children. For example, the child might attend daycare during the day and stay with friends or relatives at night. Or if the child is old enough to attend school, they may stay with friends or relatives when they aren’t at school.

Having such a foundation ensures that children are adequately taken care of while their parent receives treatment, and it also reassures a parent that their child is being looked after, allowing the parent to focus on getting better.

Caseworkers at a drug rehab center will work to ascertain that the child is being placed in a living situation where there is no history of abuse or neglect, and that the extended family members who assume temporary responsibility for the child have a stable home life.

Drug Rehab for Parents with Older Children

When it comes to older children, addicted parents may be given the option of outpatient care (although this depends on a number of other factors, such as the severity of addiction). Outpatient care allows a person the freedom to return home after participating in counseling sessions and meetings, thereby permitting a parent to spend time with children after a certain number of hours of treatment at the rehab center.

However, this freedom comes with a lower threshold of accountability. Evidence of substance abuse being resumed, or treatment protocols not being followed, could result in the recommendation that the person be transferred to an inpatient program (where patients reside on site). Children would then be placed in the care of an extended family member or another living arrangement.

Family Therapy and Play Therapy

Family therapy provides a neutral space for family members to talk about their issues.

As part of treating an addicted mom or dad, a drug rehab center will incorporate elements of family therapy into the program, which helps parents talk to their children about substance abuse. The conversations will focus on the psychological reasons behind the abuse and the effects of the addiction. Discussing such topics in the context of a family dealing with a substance abuse problem is never easy, but the therapist will facilitate the conversation to the point where every voice is heard.

Family therapy provides a neutral space for family members to talk about their issues, which is often lacking in the lives of families with substance abuse. Usually the substance abuse is not brought up or addressed.5

The therapist creates a space where emotional topics can be discussed and hidden concerns and feelings can be expressed and acknowledged. Family members may discover that others share their feelings, and they may feel empowered by gaining a broader perspective of the issue. These insights can lead to change within the family.5

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, children often need age-appropriate programs prior to being put in therapy with other family members. The child’s and parent’s problems may be addressed at the same time, but in different groups. The child may also attend support groups, which could be offered by the treatment program, a school, or a faith community. They need a safe environment to discuss abuse, neglect, or violence.5

For very young children, the dynamic is understandably different. A treatment program might involve the children through the medium of play therapy, which creates a safe and controlled environment for children to:6

  • Express feelings.
  • Explore relationships.
  • Describe experiences.
  • Experience self-fulfillment.

Children often have a hard time expressing their feelings or how they have been affected by drug or alcohol abuse. But through the guidance of a caring, supportive adult, they can reveal their feelings through the toys and materials they choose, what they do with those toys, and the stories they act out.6

Play therapy has been shown to help children deal with the following issues:6

  • Abuse and neglect
  • Aggression and acting out
  • Attachment difficulties
  • Emotional disturbances

Helping Parents Be Better Parents

Happy father playing with his son and smilingRegardless of what form of therapy is used, one of the primary goals of the process is to help people thrive in the outside world. For moms and dads, the definition of “thrive” is to become a responsible parent. In the same way that other therapy programs might focus on helping people re-enter the job market, a rehab program for parents will prioritize helping a father or mother learn how they can be the best possible parent to their children. This may include some prep work to get a stable job, but the primary aim will be improving and developing life skills that are most relevant for raising children.

Treatment for parents can be effective. The Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment found that inpatient treatment programs “specifically designed” for addicted mothers and their children demonstrated encouraging results. Researchers examined a residential drug rehab program for 35 women and their young children (23 in number) in rural South Carolina that addressed issues of addiction as well as parenting in the women, and the emotional and behavioral development of the children. The women who completed treatment had improved scores on the severity of their addiction and levels of parental stress, and the children scored better on behavioral and emotional functioning at 6 and 12 months after the program ended.7

The researchers concluded that “residential treatment has benefits for mothers and their children,” an outlook that is incredibly promising and optimistic for a mother or father who has fallen under the sway of drugs and alcohol.7

Finding & Affording Rehab

There are plenty of rehabilitation programs that may be able to find some kind of accommodation for you and your child. Call us today to discuss options. Explore our rehab centers near you below.

Don’t wait. Call us now.
Our admissions navigators are available to help 24/7 to discuss treatment.
Why call us?