News & Events

Don’t Write Off Parents With Drug Problems

19 Feb 2016

Some children whose parents have serious problems with alcohol and other drugs might in some instances be better off in other care arrangements, regardless of their cultural background or affluence(“Jones labelled racist over radio comments”, 16 February 2016).

However, we cannot and must not simply write off mothers and fathers with drug problems as being unfit to raise their children.

If parents are provided with appropriate rehabilitation and intensive parenting education and support, many are able to successfully overcome their drug dependence, become better parents and rebuild happy, healthy families where children are safe and nurtured.

In many cases, these successful outcomes can be achieved without removing the children from their parents.

The Odyssey House Parents’ and Children’s Program is one of only a handful of long-term residential rehabilitation programs in Australia that enables parents to undertake treatment while their children live with them. Therapists, child psychologists and family support workers help the adults deal with their drug problems, overcome the personal issues that led to their drug use, and develop their parenting skills. They also focus on nurturing the children’s emotional, physical and educational development and improving the family’s wellbeing as a whole.

Up to seventy per cent of the children in our program have been under the care and supervision of the Department of Family and Community Services; some remain under supervision orders while living at Odyssey House, rather than going into foster care. Many children are eventually restored to their parents’ care and responsibility as a result of the parents’ progress through the program.

Last year 12 families with 21 young children participated in the Odyssey House Parents’ & Children’s Program. If these children were in foster care while their parents were in treatment, it would have cost the government $150,000 per child or $3.15 million last year alone. In contrast, our specialised program costs $540,000 to run each year.

Rather than condemning all parents struggling with drug addiction and threatening to remove their children, we need to ensure access to support services that help them take control of and change their lives and build a better future for their families.