Mothers who use substances and implications for the care system

Desk-based literature review

Published: February 2022

The Social Care Institute for Excellence is working with the Department of Health (Northern Ireland) to undertake a project in three phases to understand and evaluate the role of Family Support Hubs. This report is part of the first phase.

The Department of Health (Northern Ireland) is looking to strengthen support for families in contact with the care system.

This report reviews what has been identified in literature in relation to mothers who use drugs and alcohol, and any implications, including:

  • the implications of not keeping a family together where a mother is using drugs or alcohol, both for the family and the care system
  • what support needs to be in place to keep families together where a mother is using drugs or alcohol
  • what practical resources exist to support social workers who are attempting to keep a family together, where a mother is using drugs or alcohol
  • any key lessons and implications for Family Support Hubs.

The report is guided by the following questions:

  • What are the additional impacts/costs to the care system and family when a child is removed due to addiction compared with the other reasons why a child may be removed?
  • Which interventions or approaches to support mothers who are struggling with substance use problems are promising or effective?
  • Do any interventions help prevent mothers from losing care of their children?
  • Are there factors or circumstances when/if families should stay together when drugs/substances are an issue?
  • What practical resources exist to support social workers who are attempting to keep a family together, where a mother has substance use problems?
  • Are there any key lessons from the literature reviewed for Family Support Hubs?