The job of a parent is to raise, protect, and care for his or her child. When parents are under the influence of drugs or alcohol, their actions are not their own, which can lead to a harmful household setting. "The 2007 National Survey on Drug Use and Health reports that 8.3 million children live with at least one parent who abused or was dependent on alcohol or an illicit drug during the past year" ("Protecting Children"). Figure 1 exhibits the number of children under the age of eighteen that live with one or more parents with substance dependence in 2002. Growing up in this type of environment negatively influences the thoughts and behaviors of the children living in it. Children should be protected by extended family and/or the government from the consequences that may result from living in homes where parental substance use occurs.
One could easily argue that parents possess the right to live as they choose and raise their children as they see fit. A parent who chooses to use drugs may claim that he or she is completely capable of raising children because of the simple fact of being an adult. What this argument fails to consider is the effects of the parents’ use of substances on their children. It would also be easy to imagine the trauma the children could face being removed from the care of their parents. Separation can cause the children to display mood disorders, poor social skills, low self-esteem, etc; however, the removal of the children from their parents is often the best course of action in the situation ("Effects of Separation and Attachment"). Removal allows both the parents and children to be cared for with the goal of reunification in the future.
Children that live in substance-using environments often encounter emotional, academic, and developmental problems. "Parental substance abuse and dependence have a negative impact on the physical and emotional well-being of children" ("Protecting Children"). Some emotional and developmental side effects include depression, anxiety, behavior issues, and psychiatric disorders. Children experiencing these issues make parenting, whether it be from the biological or foster parents, much more burdensome. Difficult behavior can be a challenge for caregivers and may end up leading to numerous care placements and inconsistent care giving of the child. Not only are children affected emotionally and physically, but also academically. Unacceptable behaviors in school are elevated, along with low test scores and low academic performance in homes where the parents are preoccupied with other activities, such as substance use. One study showed that "41% of addicted parents reported that at least one of their children repeated a grade in school, 19% were involved in truancy, and 30% had been suspended from school" ("Children of Addicted Parents"). Emotional, academic, and developmental problems may influence the choices and actions of the child in the future.
In addition, children...