Preventing the harms of intergenerational drug use through the delivery of whole family interventions

Michaela Dean, Registered Manager, Specialist Family Service Sheffield at Phoenix Futures explores how whole family interventions can help prevent the harms of intergenerational drug use.

For over 20 years, Phoenix have been delivering residential services that support parents whilst they are still looking after their children. These services are whole family interventions. They deliver treatment to the parents for substance use and help develop parenting skills needs whilst providing care and developmental support to their children.

Scientific studies show that alcohol and drug problems can be, and often are, transmitted across generations via complex biological, psychological, and social processes.

This generational transmission comes from being in close proximity to people using drugs and alcohol but also the trauma and deprivation that comes from living in a family experiencing addiction.

Any type of support for people that have children has a protective and restorative influence for the family unit – recovery seeps through families – but there is added benefit to providing support that is specifically tailored to supporting the whole family.

Phoenix has two services in the UK that offer whole family interventions: Harper House, Specialist Family Service in Scotland and our Sheffield-based Specialist Family Service supporting England and Wales. Both services work to prevent the harms of intergenerational substance use, poor mental health and improve wellbeing.

The programme in our family services bring together three main elements of support.

  • Therapeutic intervention for parents to address their addiction, mental health and improve wellbeing which includes group work, one-to-ones, CBT
  • Evidenced-based parenting skills development – enhances parenting to support in raising their children
  • Childcare and child development support provided by specialist childcare workers delivered to the highest standards.

Crucially, these elements of support are delivered by an onsite multi-disciplinary team working on a coordinated care plan for the family unit. This model of care aims to meet all support needs under one roof. In line with our other residential services, the model of care within our family services includes all the elements of the Therapeutic Community (TC) but with some modifications that allow space for childcare and parenting.

The family unit is the centre of the whole programme, and a lot of time is spent preparing each member of the family for the time that they will spend with us. This can include visiting the service and, in some cases, spending the night with us before a placement starts. We work with social workers, keyworkers, housing support workers, nurseries and schools to help prepare the family and on arrival allocate a more senior community member as a buddy to help them settle into the programme.

We spend time understanding individual children’s needs and what it is that will make the placement more comfortable for them. Where possible we try and retain some elements of normality, whether that be riding their bike to school, or if local, visiting family members.

Harper House offers responsive aftercare for 18 months to two years after the programme is finished and we link families in with doctors, social services, schools, recovery networks, support networks in their local area, all having a comprehensive aftercare plan.

The families leave confidently knowing what their appropriate role is in the family and with all the tools to sustain a happy and healthy life.

“So, I now feel when I leave here, I won’t feel like I’ve been in this rehab for three months and then flung back into life. Because I’m waking up with my daughter here, I’m making breakfast, I’m ironing her clothes, I’m getting her out to school, and then I’m doing work on myself in here. I’m working on my recovery, which is going to help everything. When she’s getting in from school, I’m being a mother.”

Community Member Harper House

Harper House

“We cannot begin to thank you enough for the opportunities and foundations you have helped us build for our future. We are beyond grateful for the time, effort, and care the service has put into helping us in our journey as individuals and as a family.”

A mother and father recently completing the programme successfully in the Sheffield Family Service

Specialist Family Service Sheffield

Our family services are not just residential TCs with a crèche, all the childcare is registered provision that support the developmental needs of each child whether that is babies, toddlers, or older children.

We pride ourselves on our childcare approaches. In Sheffield, we are one of a few childcare settings in the city to be awarded an outstanding grading by OFSTED.

Harper House is a new service, but we are already seeing significant improvements in child development. The headteacher at the local primary school commented:

“We hope more families get the chance to access Harper House. One of the children has progressed three reading stages since he has been staying at Harper House, this is incredible in such a short space of time” – Headteacher, local primary school

The treatment completion rates from our family services are consistently high year on year. This demonstrates the power and the potential of recovering families. It demonstrates that families can do better if they can stay together, and that recovery is sustained.

Whilst many families come to us in the midst of care proceedings, in a study across our Sheffield Family service following 41 parents and 42 children, 70% of families were still together up to 4 years after completing treatment.

We have an average completion rate of 86% across all our family services.

Providing a treatment approach that supports the whole family keeps children safely outside of the care system, breaks down barriers for parents accessing treatment knowing that they will not have to be separated from their children to access treatment.

It also supports children’s development and helps them to overcome some of the negative consequences of being part of a family experiencing addiction. And it provides long-term sustainable recovery for the whole family.

We believe that whole family approaches should be available to all families experiencing addiction and should be considered before the decision is made to remove children into the care system and separate families.

This blog was originally published by Phoenix Futures. You can read the original post here.

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We are proud to work in partnership with many of the leading charities and treatment providers in the sector.

This content was created by Phoenix Futures

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