Working with Children - Introduction

Across the EU it is recognised that services for children (and families) affected by alcohol misuse are scarce. All countries have generic services for children & families, as well as specialist alcohol services. However, generic services are often not fully equipped to be able to respond where there are individuals affected by a relative's problem drinking, whilst many specialist services tend to focus on the drinker, and find it particularly hard to work with children. A further issue is that many services across the EU have very individualistic models of work, whereby attention is focused on the person (child or adult) with the presenting problem, in isolation from the family, social and community context within which the problem is occurring. Some approaches adopt a much more holistic approach, attempting to deal with presenting problems within the context that they arise.

Often a lack of resources (mainly funding and training), and low levels of inter-agency collaboration and communication, can hamper the development of work in this area.

Professionals can often feel that getting involved is not part of their job, or that they do not have the knowledge or skills to intervene. However, whatever your role or level of contact with children, there will be something that you can do.

To a large extent what you can do with a child affected by parental problem drinking will depend on the nature of your professional relationship with the child. For example, are you a teacher, probation officer, youth worker who regularly comes into contact with children, or are you a specialist practitioner or researcher who works specifically with children and adolescents affected by parental problem drinking? Even if the level of your professional responsibilty only allows you to do so much, you may wishing to continue offering support to the child on a more informal level, whilst supporting the child to get help from elsewhere.

It is also important to highlight that a child can be supported indirectly, through working with the problem drinker and any other non problem drinking family members, such as the other parent.

Because we are trying to meet the needs of a range of people across 13 countries, most of the information will be at a general level. However, we will provide more specific information where appropriate, or direct you to the websites and written materials sections of the website. This includes details of websites that have been set-up to meet the needs of children living in these situations. The ENCARE group has also developed a Toolkit to help those of you who may be interested in setting up your own website for children living in risky environments. Your national organisations may also be able to provide help and information.