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If children that you care about live with drug or alcohol abusing adults, you might wonder what you can do to help them grow and thrive, and in extreme situations, you might wonder if you have an obligation to intervene.

Intervening, possibly even involving child protection authorities, can create significant consequences. It's not something to take lightly. On the other hand, you’d never want to underreact and leave children in a dangerous environment - so how can you differentiate between the un-ideal and the unacceptable?

Well, shades of gray complicate most situations, but to simplify things a little bit, here are 13 unacceptable situations that may occur when children live with addicted caregivers. If you observe any of the situations listed below, you should intervene.

13 Child Endangerment/Neglect Situations

In any of the following situations, child-protection or law enforcement professionals would be obliged to take some action to ensure child-safety. This is not a complete list of situations that would warrant intervention.1

  1. Any situation where adults are taking drugs openly in front of their children.
  2. Any situation where children become involved in illegal or risky activities related to drug or alcohol abuse. For example being present while a parent commits a crime or buys drugs. Using children to send money to dealers or other drug users also puts youth at unacceptable risk.
  3. Any situation where children don’t receive adequate supervision because one or both caregivers is intoxicated or recovering from drug or alcohol use, or absent from the home to buy drugs or get money to buy drugs.
  4. Any situation where children are exposed to used drug paraphernalia (there is an infectious disease risk from needle sticks, etc.)
  5. Any situation where children have potential access to drugs or methadone/Suboxone etc.
  6. Any situation where children are exposed to drug or alcohol fueled violence or aggression in the home.
  7. Any situation where children receive inadequate food, clothing and or shelter due to parental spending on drugs or alcohol.
  8. Any situation where the living environment becomes very unhygienic or extremely disorganized due to parental preoccupation with drugs or alcohol.
  9. Any situation where children seem unclean or uncared for because caregivers devote all attention to drugs or alcohol (kids who go to school with dirty clothes or without adequate bathing can be easy targets for bullying.)
  10. Any situation where children feel unsafe at home due to drug or alcohol related guests or longer staying visitors.
  11. Any situation where children miss school frequently because parents don't support education (too high to get kids to school, etc.)
  12. Any situation where parents fail to adequately care for a child's health – such as skipping medical or dental checkups – due to intoxication or preoccupation with drugs or alcohol.
  13. Any situation where children show, from their behavior outside of the house, that they are very upset about what’s going on at home.
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Page last updated Feb 27, 2014

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