Addiction and child custody: Are they incompatible?

| Jan 31, 2019 | Firm News

If you are a parent who struggles with addiction to drugs or alcohol, your parenting has likely been adversely affected by your substance abuse. In fact, uncontrolled addiction is one of the primary reasons kids get taken from the custody of their parents.

This should not be new news to you, but you may have put off dealing with such an unpleasant subject. The problem is that the law views children in the custody of impaired parents as “at risk.” Mandatory reporting from health care professionals, educators or law enforcement could result in your children being taken away from you and placed in another’s care.

The consequence nobody wants

In the best case scenario, the children’s sober other parent steps up and is awarded custody. Alternately, a responsible family member or trusted friend may be appointed as temporary guardian until the parent gets a handle on the problem.

But that doesn’t always happen. Far too often, kids enter the system and are split up and placed with different foster parents. Without denigrating the many dedicated and loving foster parents there are out there, it is quite possible that your children could wind up living in a home with adults who are harsh and/or abusive toward them.

Retaining custody can be challenging

Addicted parents often fly under the radar of the authorities — until they don’t. Perhaps you routinely drive while intoxicated with the kids in the car. Then one day, you get pulled over and Breathalyzed. Is the game up?

It may be possible to retain custody of the kids if challenged by their other parent as long as you have a recovery plan in place. Admitting that you are aware of the problem your addiction presents to your effective parenting is half of the battle.

Perils of impaired parenting

When you are an intoxicated parent of young children, their basic needs may go unmet while you are drunk or drugged. Meals may be unmade, diapers full and refrigerators empty. If your kids are older, they may not be properly supervised if you are hanging out in bars or scoring drugs. They may fall behind in school due to chronic lateness or absences. Teens could fall victim to unplanned pregnancies or abuse drugs or alcohol themselves out of a desire to escape the harsh circumstances of their lives with an addict for a parent.

Finding your way to recovery

Finding an affordable detox and rehab program can be quite a task. Seeking out a local Auburn AA or NA group can be a first step on your sober journey. There, long-term members may have suggestions for in- and out-patient recovery programs that might allow you to, at least, have supervised visitations with the kids until you have achieved a cumulative period of sobriety.

Work with and not against the system

The good news is that the courts support the concept of both parents being involved with their children’s lives. Keeping families together and reunifying those torn apart by parental addiction is their primary goal as long as the addicted parent is actively pursuing recovery.