On this page you will find profiles of CCRC Volunteers
Meet Tolu: I was a summer student for the CCRC in 2022. Here’s a piece about a child rights topic that I’m interested in.
Addiction has a profound effect on society as a whole, affecting people of all ages, social statuses, and cultures. It profoundly has an impact on parents’ physical and mental well-being, behaviors, and capacity to raise their children. Aside from the risk of a child with alcoholic or drug-using parents developing the detrimental habit of addiction, stigma is addiction’s equally dysfunctional sibling. It compels a child to cover for a parent, tell lies to others, and invent justifications in order to flee the prying eyes of society all of which affect the rights that are established in the Convention on the Rights of the Child, such as the right to set up or join group in the society (Article 15).
Addicts have a kind of mindset that they cannot live without the drug they are addicted to due to the physical, psychological, and spiritual aspects of addiction, and they will do whatever it takes to continue abusing drugs or alcohol, even if it means neglecting the people they care about the most. As aptly described by Robertson, (2013), ‘’Once addiction moves into a home, it has a way of taking over, making itself one of the family – albeit the most unpredictable and destructive member’.
Furthermore, according to research conducted by Parolin et al. (2016), parents’ addiction frequently involves a childrearing setting marked by poor parenting abilities, unfavorable circumstances, and negative childhood experiences, which results in dysfunctional outcomes. For these kids, maltreatment can range from mild neglect to severe physical, emotional, and even sexual abuse. The emotional and psychological growth of a kid may be irreparably impacted by a parent’s substance usage, which can create great suffering for both parties. Parents have the responsibility to think about how their decisions will affect children and make decisions in the best interest of children (Article 3). In addition, any harm done to the child’s growth also inhibits their right to health, which is referenced in the Convention on the Rights of the Child to the best health care possible, clean water to drink, healthy food and a clean and safe environment to live in (Article 24)
In a healthy parent-child relationship, the parent assumes the position of caregiver, giving a child who is still growing a safe place to live, emotional support, and financial security. However, these roles are frequently flipped and the child takes on the role of the caregiver in parent-child interactions that involve substance abuse. Many kids aren’t even conscious that they’ve accepted this duty. Some of the “obligations” of a child-parent are clear-cut, such as assisting an intoxicated father with cleanup after a night of binge drinking or taking a part-time job to help pay for groceries. All of these situations compel the youth to act at a level of maturity that they might not be capable of which is in contravention of the right of a child to play; Article 31 and Article 18 which states the responsibility of a parent is to look after a child and not the other way around. In turn, the emotional boundaries that allow children to grow up independently are frequently crossed by addicted parents, converting the child into a skilled caregiver who lacks social skills or a sense of self (American Addiction Centers, 2021). They could thus develop increased mental and emotional instability such as experiences of severe guilt and self-blame. In their adult years, they could start to feel unworthy or form unhealthy attachments. The effects of a parent’s drug consumption can even occur long before childhood and adulthood, with research showing that pregnancy-related drug use has been linked to mental, emotional, and attention issues as well as physical deformities, stunted growth, and malformations of essential organs. (Extra Mile Recovery, 2018)
In Canada, the prevalence of parental addiction inflicted on children who are now adults is about 20% for women and 16% for men (Langlois and Garne, 2015). The frequency of this challenge can likewise be seen in many other countries; over a million kids in Australia live in families where at least one adult is addicted. In the US, alcohol or other drug use by a parent is a factor in 75% of child fatalities and more than 50% of all substantiated complaints of abuse. There are also at least 9 million children and teenagers in the European Union who have alcoholic parents. According to Nacoa UK’s research (2022), 3 million children in the UK alone are affected by parental alcoholism. Moreover, considering the nations throughout the world that are now not even collecting clear data of the issue, the number of young persons living in homes that are affected by alcohol problems is much likely higher. (Dünnbier, 2016)
Consequently, the state of having addicts as parents will undoubtedly lead to an infringement of the best interests of the child outlined in the Convention on the Rights of the Child (Article 3, Article 18). This also includes the infringement of the right of every child to a standard of living adequate for the child’s physical, mental, spiritual, moral and social development (Article 27) and the right of a child to family (Article 9), among others.
The stigma attached to addiction makes it almost impossible for children of addicts to speak out and seek help. Therefore, it is paramount that the issue of stigma be continually addressed across all levels of education to compel children of addicts to receive help.
American Addiction Centers. (2021, November). Guide for Children of Addicted Parents. American Addiction Centers. https://americanaddictioncenters.org/rehab-guide/guide-for-children
Dünnbier, M. (2016, December 10). Standing Up For The Human Rights Of Children Of Alcoholics. Movendi International. https://movendi.ngo/blog/2016/12/10/standing-human-rights-children-alcoholics
Research | Nacoa. 2022. NACOA. [accessed 2022 Dec 2] https://nacoa.org.uk/research-resources/research/
Parolin, M., Simonelli, A., Mapelli, D., Sacco, M., & Cristofalo, P. (2016). Parental Substance Abuse As an Early Traumatic Event. Preliminary Findings on Neuropsychological and Personality Functioning in Young Drug Addicts Exposed to Drugs Early. Frontiers in Psychology, 7. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2016.00887
Robertson, Y. (2013, November 15). Addiction and stigma seen through a family. Richmond News. https://www.richmond-news.com/weekly-feature-archive/addiction-and-stigma-seen-through-a-family-2963999
Statistics Canada. (2015, July 07). Trajectories of psychological distress among Canadian adults who experienced parental addiction in childhood. Www150.Statcan.gc.ca. https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/82-003-x/2013003/article/11774-eng.htm
Meet Katia Siamer:
I am currently completing an interdisciplinary master’s degree in Children’s Rights at the University of Geneva, in Switzerland, and work at Canada’s largest administrative tribunal, under the Refugee and Protection Division. Throughout my undergraduate studies in Psychology, I worked as a behavioral interventionist with children under the autism spectrum, volunteered with immigrant and refugee families in the lower mainland doing outreach work and translating, and completed research in various University laboratories such as the Children’s Memory Group where I assisted a doctoral dissertation on disadvantages in court of children who experience repeated abuse. I have always been interested in the social determinants of health and wellbeing of vulnerable populations, global policy making, and hope to have a career where I am able to bridge legal reforms of children’s rights to the psychology of children. I am absolutely thrilled to have joined the Canadian Coalition for the Rights of Children as an intern, where I can broaden my knowledge and gain experience on child justice in the Canadian context.