Child Abuse Awareness Month
• April 2022 •
From Juan Navarro, Executive Director
Los Angeles Centers for Alcohol and Drug Abuse
During Child Abuse Awareness Month this April, I’d like to share a little known L.A. CADA service with you: it’s our Youngest Crime Victims Program funded by the Department of Justice, Office of Crime Victims. The program addresses a problem most people don’t like to talk about: children and youth who suffer neglect, abuse, or mental health problems due to family substance use.
As a treatment agency, L.A. CADA always advocates for recovery care for substance users, not punishment. But what happens when parents who drink and use drugs harm their children by doing so? Our staff are mandated reporters, but we still advocate for treatment. L.A. CADA’s Youngest Crime Victims program provides the needed intervention services to further that goal.
The largest child protective services agency in the nation is right here in Los Angeles County. On any one day, there are more than 35,000 open cases at any one time across 88 cities. And in 2018, 59% of all open cases overseen by L.A. County Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) involved substance use issues. When parents are otherwise occupied by a focus on drug-seeking, children in substance-using families are often neglected. Many are abused.
Those children are afraid. Despite the abue, they fear they will lose the parent they love. They fear an uncertain future. And sometimes they fear that they were responsible. These are big burdens for little ones to carry. To help these children, L.A. CADA offers the following services:
- Information, referral, and training for trauma-informed treatment;
- On-scene crisis response to alcohol/drug-related events where a child/youth is present;
- Mental health case management, counseling, and support groups; and
- Victim advocacy and accompaniment.
During the COVID pandemic, abused children have been out of the sight of mandated abuse reporters (teachers, counselors, and medical personnel). But they don’t have to be forgotten in the chaos of family substance use. L.A. CADA wants to help. Keep our number on hand if you know a family affected by parental alcoholism and drug use. Call (562) 906-2676 and ask for Program Manager Caryl Lark.
Learn how: How Parental SUD Affects Children
“It’s funny how you become what you hate, right? I hated how my mom would get when she drank. She was mean, a total mess, screaming, throwing up, passing out. I took care of her because — who else was there? I’m the oldest, so it was up to me to get my brothers up, fed, make sure they had clean clothes, and went to school. It was a lot of stress but if the teachers found out, I would be responsible for the police taking my brothers away. I did what I had to do. Only, like I said it was a lot of stress and I started taking pills. I didn’t understand they were opioids; all I know is that they relaxed me. This went on for two years with my little brothers sometimes putting me to bed! Until I got caught. The school came to my house where mom was drunk. So I made my big fear came through. Only they took ME too. But, foster care is where I got into counseling for the pills and I learned about family roles and that I shouldn’t have been raising my brothers. For me, treatment brought me relief.”
SPOTLIGHT – THE EVIDENCE IS IN:
Strengthening Families Approach
Families can heal from the trauma of substance use together. The Strengthening Families Approach and Protective Factors Framework is one culturally competent, two-generation approach that can be used. It focuses on strengthening protective factors and fostering a changed relationship with parents for more effective parenting and outcomes — all in alignment to developmental science. A growing body of evidence shows a preventative approach emphasizing family and community protective factors yields positive long-term outcomes for children.
Here in L.A. County, First 5 L.A. works to strengthen families, build community capacity, and improve countywide systems impacting children from the prenatal stage to age 5. First 5 L.A. is one of the strongest advocates for use of the Strengthening Families evidence-based practice.
The curriculum focuses on five key framework areas: 1) parental and youth resilience; 2) social connections; 3) knowledge of parenting and child development; 4) access to concrete support in times of need; and 5) the social/emotional competence of youth. The Strengthening Families Approach emphasizes group education and discussion, the importance of cultural values, activities where children and parents learn together, and working toward small, positive changes based on the theory of change.
Find out what parents think: The Strengthening Families Approach