Taking first steps: what family sensitive practice means for alcohol and other drug workers

1 Feb 2010


In any effort to achieve integration of services to families where alcohol and drug use problems emerge, the recognition and response to parenting and children’s needs is required. This statement is self evident. However, the extent to which this is achieved in alcohol and drug related response services is variable. This resource provides a starting point to any effort to examine and attend to the factors that either facilitate or impede its realisation.

Some services now actively promote and provide a focus on parenting roles and children as a part of their response to drug dependent clients. Others ‘squeeze this in’ wherever and whenever opportunity, time, access and resources allow. Some probably note the needs but feel and think that they do not have the capacity (either knowledge, skills or other resources including time) or ‘permission’ (from their clients or services) to get involved.

To ignore the parenting roles and clients responsibilities and involvement with children in our treatment services loses out for the clients now and for their children both now and in to their futures.

It is often difficulties people are having in family roles that directly or indirectly provoke treatment seeking. This does not always mean that this motivation is shared when a client approaches or is ‘sent’; through pressure from close others or through legal processes including diversion. Similarly, there is variable experience regarding the extent to which clients ‘allow’ such a focus. This however does not, in my mind, preclude a family oriented response from us as workers.

We must examine policies, guidelines, tools we can use to check out practice; we must examine contracts and look closely at what is counted in considering outcomes if we are to appropriately and adequately address the needs of out clients and their children, including the preventative interventions for them as well as improved direct drug specific client outcomes. We must take seriously the need for integration and develop sophisticated methods of achieving this in conjunction with other service sectors who are also struggling with these issues. Whether we focus on it or not, we are part of the front line of family services.

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