Resources for Children of Addicts

family in the palm of helping hands concept

Between 6 and 11 million American children currently live in homes with one or more parents who have a substance abuse problem. Growing up with a substance-abusing parent has profound effects on a child’s world and their future well-being. No child should have to bear the burden of a parent’s addiction alone. The following resources are designed for children under 18 and the adult children of addicts, all of whom suffer as the result of a parent’s addiction.

Organizations

  • The National Association for Children of Alcoholics is a large organization that advocates for children with parents who have problems with drugs or alcohol. They provide a wide variety of literature, seeking to educate clergy, teachers, social workers, families and students about the needs of children of addicts.
  • The Kid’s Page on the National Association for Children of Alcoholics’ website is a friendly and hopeful website that provides information and support just for kids. It includes information about how drugs and alcohol affect families and tips for feeling safe and coping with problems at home.
  • Alateen is a branch of Al-Anon Family Groups, the international fellowship designed to support family members of alcoholics. Alateen gives teens a supportive place to share their experiences with other young people who have walked through similar struggles. If there are no Alateen meetings in your area, you can join the Al-Anon meetings. Search online for local meetings, or call 888-425-266.
  • The National Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome educates people about the dangers of drinking during pregnancy and the effects of fetal alcohol syndrome. According to their website, exposure to alcohol before birth is the “leading known cause of mental retardation and birth defects.” You can visit their website to learn more and to find a list of resources for children and adults living with fetal alcohol syndrome.
  • The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration is a governmental agency that deals in particular with children who have parents with substance use disorders. For an extensive list of resources, see their 2008 pdf document. 
  • While drug and alcohol abuse problems understandably receive the most attention, any kind of addiction within a family can be devastating, and there are organizations that try to help. Families Anonymous supports family members who have been affected by any sort of addiction. Gam-Anon is an organization that offers support for the family members of individuals with gambling addictions.

Legal Questions

For adults who are the friend or family member of a child in danger because of their parent’s addiction, information regarding child custody laws is important to be aware of. These laws vary according to state, but in general courts try to decide in favor of the child's best interest; more information can be found from the Legal Information Institute.

Helpful Books

Children, counselors, and other family members may find some of the following books insightful and supportive:

  • Alateen: Hope for Children of Alcoholics, published by Al-Anon Family Group Headquarters
  • Brown Bottle: A Fable for Children of All Ages, by Penny Jones
  • Courage to Be Me: Living with Alcoholism, published by Al-Anon Family Group Headquarters
  • Something’s Wrong in My House, by Katherine Leiner
  • Have Your Ever Been a Child? by Leslie Gebhart

Phone Numbers

  • Boystown 24-Hour National Hotline: 1-800-448-3000. Boys Town helps families and youth in crisis.
  • CHILDHELP USA Child Abuse Hotline: 1-800-422-4453. Dial 1 to reach a counselor.