ACU study gives voice to children of drug users

Thursday, 24 May 2007

Canberra, 24 May 2007: Australian Catholic University (ACU) and Anglicare Canberra and Goulburn are giving a voice to children living with a drug or alcohol dependent parent, through a new study funded by the Australian Capital Territory Government.

The Supporting children and families affected by alcohol or other drug use study will be carried out by ACU’s Institute of Child Protection Studies and Anglicare’s young carers support organisation CYCLOPS ACT. The study will provide young people with the opportunity to have their say about what their parents’ drug or alcohol use means to them, what roles they assume in their families and what kind of support they need.

ACU Institute of Child Protection Studies Director Dr Morag McArthur said a recent report by the Australian National Council on Drugs (ANCD) highlighted the lack of opportunities for children and young people to talk about their experiences of family drug use.

“The ANCD report clearly stresses the importance of engaging children and providing them opportunities to talk about their lives,” Dr McArthur said. “It is only when we engage children that we can fully understand how they perceive their experiences and for us to adequately respond.”

Dr McArthur said previous studies showed that children of drug and alcohol users were often forced to assume household tasks normally reserved for adults, including caring for parents who were under the influence, cooking for the family, cleaning and supervising younger siblings. All of these experiences could have significant long-term mental and physical impacts on the children, she said.

“Our study aims to not only better understand children’s experiences but also uncover how to provide support services that actually make a difference in these children’s lives. As such, we will work closely with a range of support organisations on this project – including the drug and alcohol sector and services for families and youth – to identify the best ways of assisting children and families living under these circumstances.”

The study is funded through the ACT Government’s Carers Recognition Grants Program, which aims to enhance the recognition and support of an estimated 38,000 carers in the Australian Capital Territory and is supported by the Caring for Carers Policy and the Carers Action Plan.

The ACU Institute of Child Protection Studies would like to talk to families affected by alcohol or other drug use for the purposes of the study and can be contacted on (02) 6209 1229.

The ACU Institute of Child Protection Studies was established in January 2005 and is a partnership between the University and the ACT Department of Disability, Housing and Community Services. The Institute aims to develop into a leading research organisation, carrying out research which leads to improved practice in the care and protection of children and young people, both nationally and within the ACT.
Australian Catholic University (ACU) – established as Australia’s only Catholic, national, publicly funded university – is open to all. The University empowers its students and staff with a strong sense of social responsibility and concern for the moral and ethical dimensions of their study and their professional and personal lives.