Media Release by The Hon Jenny Macklin MP

Australian children at risk from parental substance abuse

Research compiled by the Australian Institute of Family Studies has found that a substantial number of Australian children are living in households where adults routinely misuse alcohol and other drugs.

The research shows that in cases of substantiated child abuse or neglect, 33 per cent of parents involved experienced significant problems with substance abuse and 31 per cent with alcohol abuse.

And disturbingly, it is estimated that 30 per cent of abused or neglected children go on to maltreat children in some way when they are adults.

It also warns that existing data underestimates the impact of drug and alcohol abuse on children because current national surveys do not collect information on parental status or child care responsibilities.

With National Child Protection Week this week, it is important to focus community attention on the links between substance abuse and the shocking incidence of neglect and abuse of children.

It is widely accepted that children raised in families with parental substance abuse are at risk.

Parents affected by drugs or alcohol often fail to care for their children properly – meals don’t get cooked, clothes aren’t washed, school attendance and bedtime routines are neglected. And the absence of parental supervision increases the risk of children being exposed to neglect, injury or harm from others.

As well, families with parental substance misuse often suffer from a range of other problems which heighten the risk of abuse and neglect of children.

And many families with parental substance abuse struggle financially, have high rates of unemployment and unstable accommodation.

Parental substance abuse is typically just one of many problems in multi-problem families and children raised in these dysfunctional families do not have a bright future.

This research backs the Australian Government’s commitment to put the needs of children at the centre of policy development including drug and alcohol programs.

Every year there are 60,000 substantiated cases of child abuse and neglect.

These trends are deeply alarming. We must harness every resource we can to better protect vulnerable children from abuse and neglect.

The Australian Government is committed to providing national leadership to protect our children.

That’s why we are developing a National Child Protection Framework which includes a stronger focus on prevention.

The Government is determined to work closely with the States and Territories to improve the way agencies, payments and programs interact with each other to help prevent abuse and protect children identified at risk.

The AIFS paper can be found at: AIFS Issues no 29