Guidelines – to support working with children and families

There are guidelines available to work with this group; sometimes these guidelines are general, whilst others are geared towards a particular issue or professional group. Much more information will be available from your country's ENCARE national website, other organisations in your country (see Resources section of this website) or your own professional body. Below are some examples from some of the ENCARE countries.


Social Law states that each municipality must have an inter-disciplinary group (nurses, doctors, pre-school teachers, social workers, psychologists etc.) who will meet to discuss serious cases of child abuse or neglect. The group has a responsibility to find a solution. The group leader will be the social worker.


In December 2003 the Ministry of Health and Social Security agreed the following guidelines "to advance the situation of children from addicted families":

  • Children from addicted families have a right for support and help, regardless of their parents` comportment.
  • The children need to know, that they are not guilty for their parents` addiction. They need an age-appropriate education about the affliction of their parents and about accessible professional help.
  • The co-operation between the welfare services, particularly the addiction care, the child and youth welfare system and the medical services, has to be optimised. For achieving an effective intervention, we need a collaboration, which is overlapping through comprehensive work fields. Teachers, educators, health professionals, social workers, psychologists and pedagogues have to work in a binding network. Our intention is to identify affected children and parents at an early stage and to offer them an adequate aid.
  • The public needs to be informed about the consequences of addiction to children and families. In a sensitive society, it is easier for parents to accept their addiction as a serious disease and facilitates children to ask for help and adopt it.
  • We have to abandon the concealment about addiction and create an environment, which makes it possible for affected parents and children to vanquish feelings of shame and guilt and to accept help. Children heavily suffer from family secrets.
  • Addicts are anxious of being good parents as well. Addicted parents need encouragement and support for their perception of parental responsibility. Therefore we have to focus our efforts on children welfare.
  • The family-orientated perspective requires a mutual belief of the involved professional helpers. This perspective is the basic principle of all proposals and interventions.
  • In individual cases, when families refuse help to their children, it might be necessary to intervene against the parents` will.
  • Schools and nurseries are significant living spaces for children from addicted families. Their problem needs to be identified early and with the adequate attention. We have to provide assistance together with the affected parents.
  • The knowledge about appearance of addiction and its effects on children and families must be an indispensable element of pedagogic, psychological and medical job training. This causes an increased awareness of the problem in the respective occupational groups and supports a long-term change in the public opinion.

United Kingdom

Social Workers in the UK now work to the Framework for the Assessment of Need, which contains three domains child's developmental needs, parenting capacity and family & environmental factors.

The Scottish Executive has produced a document called Good Practice Guidance for working with Children and Families affected by Substance Misuse (click here for more information). This document includes sections on deciding when children need help, working together to tackle problems, sharing information & confidentiality, strengthening services for families, building strong inter-agency partnerships, legal framework, checklist for information to be collected, substance misuse in pregnancy, blood-borne viruses, useful agencies and websites (mainly Scotland based).

Gaskell Publications (Royal College of Psychiatrists) have recently produced a publication (Communicating with Vulnerable Children) and video (Being Seen and Heard) that provide guidance on communicating with vulnerable children, and working with the needs of children of parents with mental illness. Whilst not specifically related to children of parents with alcohol problems, there is much that might be of use to professionals across Europe. For further details contact the Royal College of Psychiatrists or the Department of Health.