October 25, 2023
Reflecting on the importance of National Substance Abuse Prevention Month and National Domestic Violence Awareness Month
October is National Substance Abuse Prevention Month and National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. These awareness months highlight critical societal issues that affect many families. Every year tens of thousands of children and youth enter the child welfare system due to abuse or neglect that is often related to substance use disorder or domestic violence in the home. Sometimes it’s both, because they are often interrelated.
Domestic violence is a pattern of behavior used by one partner to maintain power and control over another partner in an intimate relationship. Domestic violence can take many forms, including physical, emotional, sexual, and financial abuse. It is estimated that 30-60% of all children in foster care have witnessed domestic violence. Due to their high rates of maltreatment and trauma, children in foster care are at a greater risk of experiencing domestic violence as young adults.
Substance abuse, also called substance use disorder, is another issue that affects children in foster care. Substance abuse can lead to neglect and abuse of children, as parents who experience addiction to drugs or alcohol may be unable to provide adequate care for their children.
Drug and alcohol abuse greatly influence incidences of domestic violence. According to the Domestic Violence book, domestic violence perpetrators “have a higher consumption of alcohol and illicit drugs.” Children who witness domestic violence may experience a range of negative outcomes, including anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and behavioral problems. Children who are exposed to substance use disorder may be at higher risk of developing addiction themselves.
Poverty can be a factor in substance use disorder and domestic violence. In 2021, National CASA/GAL created a poverty learning series featuring resource and learning opportunities for state organizations and local programs about the relationship between poverty and child abuse and neglect. The series includes expert speakers, a curated selection of readings focused on the topic of poverty, webinars and more.
Learning about domestic violence and substance use disorder is an important element of the CASA/GAL volunteer training. CASA/GAL volunteers are trained to advocate for services that promote healing and that help children develop resilience without causing additional trauma. This includes providing access to mental health services, educational support, and stable housing. Having a stable relationship with a supportive adult like a CASA/GAL volunteer supports resilience, even for a child who has faced significant hardships.
- National Domestic Violence Hotline – 1.800.799.SAFE (7233) (TTY 1-800-787-3224)
- Promoting Protective Factors for Children Exposed to Domestic Violence: A Guide for Practitioners
- A Proclamation on National Domestic Violence Awareness and Prevention Month, 2023 – The White House
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)
- The Children’s Bureau’s 2023/2024 Prevention Resource Guide (PDF)