Drug Education News

News and views from the Drug Education Forum

Drugs and Young People in Foster Care

foster“I think it [the conversation about drugs] has to be for all kids in the family, otherwise it’s like your foster carer is saying, my own children are never going to do drugs but you’re in care, so you will.”

Frank have a new leaflet for foster carers to help them think about drugs with the children in their care.

It points out:

Talking about drugs doesn’t always stop young people from taking them, but it will help them make more informed choices and reduce the risks associated with drug use. Talking about drugs can help young people in foster care to feel more independent and in control of their lives, as well as helping them to get further support and treatment if they need it. One thing is for certain – talking about drugs won’t encourage a child or young person to try or take more drugs.

It goes on to say that young people in care need stable and reliable adults in their lives whom they can trust and that the carer is a good position to provide accurate information about drugs.

They provide a number of statistics to show why children in care may be vulnerable to developing drug problems.

  • 73% of care leavers interviewed had smoked cannabis compared to 31% of the general population
  • 29% had taken ecstasy compared to 6% of the general population
  • 26% had taken cocaine compared to 4% of the general population
  • 21% had used solvents compared to 7% of the general population
  • 14% had taken crack compared to 2% of the general population
  • 9% had taken heroin compared to 0.6% of the general population

The leaflets points out that in law foster carers can be held responsible for illegal drugs being (or being used) in their homes and gives précis of the law as it relates to the age of criminal responsibility.

They advise taking notes about the young person’s behaviour and trying to distinguish between recreational drug use and problematic use; and where they may be concerned to think about how to work with social workers and other professionals.

There’s a section on preparing to talk about drugs which include thinking about:

  • Short or long term foster care;
  • Parental drug use;
  • Learning difficulties;
  • Age; and
  • The inquisitive nature of young people.

And then there are tips for talking about drugs.

While it is important to encourage dialogue around drugs, there are limits to what you might achieve, so don’t feel that you have failed if a child or young person refuses to talk to you. The best things that you can try to do are:

  • Listen
  • Answer questions
  • Provide a comfortable and ‘safe’ environment in which to talk
  • Help them to make informed decisions
  • Direct them to specialist advice or support if needed

Other tips include: not treating the young person differently from the foster carers own children; using stories from television or other media to open discussions; picking the right time to start the discussion; explaining the risks associated with drug use.

The leaflet closes by giving advice on working with challenging behaviour; child protection; and helping the young people find support networks.

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Filed under: Frank

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