In order to make a balanced and robust assessment, partner with parents to explore what is working well and has worked well in the past, and what the worries are in relation to their alcohol and other drugs use.
Understanding a parent’s story, past and present, will help you and the parent learn about the cues and contexts that lead them to drink or use, and how these triggers can be addressed through healing and recovery interventions. It will also assist you in developing targeted safety plans so that specific actions can be taken by the parents and the safety and support network to address the situations that trigger a parent’s alcohol and other drugs use.
What are we worried about?
We have some worries about how alcohol and other drugs use is impacting on you and your family. Do you have any? Can we talk about that?
What do you think Child Safety is most worried about in relation to your alcohol and other drugs use?
I wonder what your child/ren might say, if they notice a difference when you are drinking/using drugs and when you’re not. What do you think they would say?
Sometimes children say they notice their parent is slurring, not able to help with lots of things like breakfast or getting to school, that they are more irritable or angry or tired. Things like that. Do you think your children would notice any of those things?
When you are using alcohol and other drugs a lot, and things are not going so well, what is going on for you and for your child/ren?
How do your children see/experience your alcohol and other drugs use?
What are the events/places/people that make you want to drink/use drugs more?
How does alcohol and other drugs use impact on your relationship with your children?
Do you think your children worry about you?
How does alcohol and other drugs use impact on the way you live day to day?
What is getting in the way of you making changes to your alcohol and other drugs use?
What would be the hardest thing about making changes to you alcohol and other drugs use?
What kinds of things get in the way of you managing your alcohol and other drugs use in a way you’d like?
What’s working well?
Acts of protection
Do you do things to try to help your child/ren be okay when you are drinking/using drugs?
When things are okay for you and you’re in a good space, what’s life like for you and for your children? Are they safer during these times? What makes you think that?
When you have been able to better manage your alcohol and other drugs use, what are the positive impacts you see for your children?
You have told me that you are more likely to use alcohol and other drugs when (example) is happening. Have there been times when those things have been happening and you could have (gotten smashed) but you didn’t? What was that like? How did you do that?
Strengths and resources
Who or what has ever helped you reduce, stop or better manage your alcohol and other drugs use?
Is there anyone who is supportive of you when things are tough and you are more likely to drink, use drugs more?
How do they help?
Do you have ways of managing alcohol and other drugs use so you feel better and more able to do all you need to, especially as a parent?
What are the most positive parts of your relationship with your children?
What are you most proud of about yourself as a parent to your children?
On a scale of 0–10 where 0 means that you are unable to keep your children safe as a result of alcohol and other drugs use and 10 means that your children are completely safe and not affected at all by alcohol and other drugs use, where would you put things on the scale for you and your family right now?
Where would your children put it?
Where do you think Child Safety might put it?
What do you think (other network members) might say?
What has you scoring so high/low?
What needs to happen?
What do you think needs to happen to move up the scale?
What additional help/support would move things up the scale?
What do you think your children would say needs to happen?
What do you think Child Safety would say needs to happen?
What would be some first small steps?
What help do you need to take this action/step?
Through our discussion we have identified that alcohol and other drugs use costs a lot of money, makes you feel unwell, gets you into situations you don’t like … but it also meets some of your needs. It [numbs you/ gives you a rest from reality/ whatever parent described]. Are you sure you are ready to make changes now? [This is an optional question that acknowledges resistance and fear].
Talking with a parent to understand the role alcohol and other drugs use has played in their life will help you learn how their use has changed over time. This will assist you in mapping the times when their alcohol and other drugs use has led to harm to their children, and other times when they have been able to create safety and protect their child. It will also help you to understand who and what has been an influence on this journey.
Revealing acts of protection, strengths and resources, and exceptions to harm
Understanding the road a parent has travelled, how they have coped and survived oppression, disadvantage, pain and trauma can help reveal other strengths and resources they have.
When you really acknowledge what a parent has been through and how far they have come, you can empower them. This can create an opportunity to talk about other ways they have coped, steps they may have already taken to reduce or stop using, times when they have created safety for their children, and what and who has helped or hindered them through their life and now. These can be building blocks for creating achievable goals for change.
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