I researched the issue of children from alcoholic/addicted homes in our classrooms.  It used to be thought (wrongly) that children from alcoholic homes would act out these difficulties in school in very obvious ways to school staff.  The more we look into the issue, we learn that there is a hidden and very "at risk" group of students in every classroom suffering from the impact of problem substance use by their parents/adult care givers.  I will summarize some facts for you and then suggest you check out two web sites, each that will introduce you to the issues these students struggle with first hand.  There is another website that introduces a school wide program for lowering risks.  My invited guest for this weekend is an example of a student who no one would ever expect to struggle with issues of this nature.  She is a straight A student, active in sports and academic extra-curricular activities, pretty and popular.  Who would think that she is high risk for substance abuse herself, suicide or marrying someone with alcoholic tendencies? (NSDUH/National Survey on Drug use and Health Report, 2004; Journal of Studies on Alcohol, The family transmission of adolescent alcohol abuse and dependence, 67(5), 2006)

I first researched www.FindYouthinfo.gov for background information.  From 2004 - 2020 the number of children in the US under the age of 18 will increase from 73 to 80 million (www.childstats.gov , America's Children in Brief: Key National Indicators of Well-Being 2006).  A growing population of these children will come from families with households headed by unmarried women, who were more likely to be poor (42%), compared with 9% poverty rate for two parent and married families (www.childtrendsdatabank.org ).  Both of factors are tied to having at least one parent with a substance abuse issue.  The Office of Applied Studies estimates that in 2001, more than 6 million children in the US lived with at least one parent who struggles with addiction (NHSDA Report: Children Living with Substance Abusing or Substance Dependent Parents).

As a classroom teacher, you will increasingly (sometimes unknowlingly) encounter these children.  Before you do, please consider exploring three resources:

www.mostofus.org/marketing.php will introduce you to the Social Norms Marketing model of reducing risks for all students in your building.  This effort is being promoted by the MN Department of Human Services as a key strategy for schools to use.

www.nacoa.org will introduce you to a website where you can interact with teens who talk about the reality of living with alcoholic parents.

www.al-anon.alateen.org/alateen.html will introduce you to a 12 step program, based on Alcoholics Anonymous/Alanon where you could refer a student suffering with this burden.

Lead Question for Discussion: Based on the above, should we reach out to students suffering from alcoholism in their family and if so, how?  If not, why not?

Message from Brenden  May 2013

Dear Dr. B:


First of all, thank you for making a career path as a full time SpEd case manager open to me.  My motivation for this career is connected to my first true passion, substance abuse/mental health prevention.  Research continues to indicate that students who are at high risk for addictive and other negative mental health trajectories are often misdiagnosed with a combination of special education needs.  For most of these students, a hidden history of alcoholism/addiction in the family exists.  My current role as a special education case manager in St. James, MN, allows me to reach these kids in a meaningful and long lasting way. 


Through my work, I am now able to help kids experience academic success. I am also given the privilege of helping each and everyone of them make a positive connection (find their place) within the democratic community of a public school setting.  When I was a drug counselor in the schools, I was limited for reasons of institutional denial you are well familiar with.  Now that I am in the system as a teacher, I am able to deliver substance abuse and mental health prevention along with, and often times, under the guise of education.  I am very fulfilled.  I have you to thank for that. 


Please direct any inquiry from your students on this important issue my way. Being a resource for others completes a variety of circles.  Now that I am back where I belong, I am in research mode, always willing to share my latest "aha".  Also, St. James is considered a MN model for successful cultural cooperation between hispanics/whites in both the schools and in the community at-large.  We were featured on MPR last fall, in this regard.


I'll e-mail from home with my address and contact information.  My work e-mail is bbabcock@isd840.org.  My website is also available @ http://www.stjames.k12.mn.us/page/2625