Good Practice Guidance for working with Children and Families affected by Substance Misuse
Appendix II: Checklist of Information to be Collated Concerning Substance Misuse and its Impact on Parenting
This checklist has been adapted and expanded from guidelines produced by the Standing Conference on Drug Abuse (SCODA 1997).
Children in the family - provision of good basic care
- How many children are in this family?
- What are their names and ages (wherever possible, include dates of birth)?
- Are there any children living outside the family home and, if so, where?
For each child:
- Is there adequate food, clothing and warmth for the child? Are height and weight normal for the child's age and stage of development?
Is the child receiving appropriate nutrition and exercise?
- Is the child's health and development consistent with their age and stage of development? Has the child received necessary immunisations? Is the child registered with a GP and a dentist? Do the parents seek health care for the child appropriately?
- Does the child attend nursery or school regularly? If not, why not? Is s/he achieving appropriate academic attainment?
- Does the child present any behavioural, or emotional problems? Does the parent manage the child's distress or challenging behaviour appropriately?
- Who normally looks after the child?
- Is the child engaged in age-appropriate activities?
- Are there any indications that any of the children are taking on a parenting role within the family (e.g. caring for other children, excessive household responsibilities, etc.)?
- Is the care for the child consistent and reliable? Are the child's emotional needs being adequately met?
- Is there a risk of repeated separation for example because of periods of imprisonment (e.g. short custodial sentences for fine default)?
- How does the child relate to unfamiliar adults?
- Are there non-drug using adults in the family readily accessible to the child who can provide appropriate care and support when necessary?
- Does the child know about his/her parents substance use?
- Is there evidence of drug/alcohol use by the child?
Describing parental substance use
(identify sources of information, including conflicting reports)
- Is the drug use by the parent:
- Does the user move between these types of drug use at different times?
- Does the parent misuse alcohol?
- What patterns of drinking does the parent have?
- Is the parent a binge drinker with periods of sobriety? Are there patterns to their bingeing?
- Is the parent a daily heavy drinker?
- Does the parent use alcohol concurrently with other drugs?
- How reliable is current information about the parent's drug use?
- Is there a drug-free parent/non-problematic drinker, supportive partner or relative?
- Is the quality of parenting or childcare different when a parent is using drugs and when not using?
- Does the parent have any mental health problems alongside substance use? If so, how are mental health problems affected by the parent's substance use? Are mental health problems directly related to substance use?
Accommodation and the home environment
- Is the family's living accommodation suitable for children? Is it adequately equipped and furnished? Are there appropriate sleeping arrangements for each child, for example does each child have a bed or cot, with sufficient bedding?
- Are rent and bills paid? Does the family have any arrears or significant debts?
- How long have the family lived in their current home/current area? Does the family move frequently? If so, why? Are there problems with neighbours, landlords or dealers?
- Do other drug users/problem drinkers share or use the accommodation? If so, are relationships with them harmonious, or is there conflict?
- Is the family living in a drug-using/ heavy drinking community?
- If parents are using drugs, do children witness the taking of the drugs, or other substances?
- Are children exposed to intoxicated behaviour/group drinking?
- Could other aspects of drug use constitute a risk to children (e.g. conflict with or between dealers, exposure to criminal activities related to drug use)?
Procurement of drugs
- Where are the children when their parents are procuring drugs or getting supervised methadone? Are they left alone? Are they taken to unsuitable places where they might be at risk, such as street meeting places, flats, needle exchanges, adult clinics?
- How much do the parents spend on drugs (per day? per week?) How is the money obtained?
- Is this causing financial problems?
- Do the parents sell drugs in the family home?
- Are the parents allowing their premises to be used by other drug users?
- Where in the household do parents store drugs/alcohol?
- Do the children know where the drugs/alcohol are kept?
- What precautions do parents take to prevent their children getting hold of their drugs/alcohol? Are these adequate?
- What do parents know about the risks of children ingesting methadone and other harmful drugs?
- Do parents know what to do if a child has consumed a large amount of alcohol?
- Are they in touch with local agencies that can advise on issues such as needle exchanges, substitute prescribing programmes, detoxification and rehabilitation facilities? If they are in touch with agencies, how regular is the contact?
- Is there a risk of HIV, Hepatitis B or Hepatitis C infection?
If the parent(s) inject:
- Where is injecting equipment kept? In the family home? Are works kept securely?
- Is injecting equipment shared?
- Is a needle exchange scheme used?
- How are syringes disposed of?
- What do parents know about the health risks of injecting or using drugs?
Family and social supports
- Do the parents primarily associate with other substance misusers, non-drug users or both?
- Are relatives aware of parent(s)' problem alcohol/drug use? Are they supportive of the parent(s)/child(ren)?
- Will parents accept help from relatives, friends or professional agencies?
- Is social isolation a problem for the family?
- How does the community perceive the family? Do neighbours know about the parents drug use? Are neighbours supportive or hostile?
Parents' perception of the situation
- What do parents think of the impact of the substance misuse on their children?
- Is there evidence that the parents place their own needs and procurement of alcohol or drugs before the care and welfare of their children?
- Do the parents know what responsibilities and powers agencies have to support and protect children at risk?