What is Hidden Harm?
This Sunday, 15th May, is National Children’s Day, which promotes the rights and freedoms of children in order to ensure that they can grow into happy, healthy adults. This year, National Children’s Day aims to raise awareness of how vital the wellbeing of adults is in supporting the wellbeing of children.
To celebrate National Children’s Day, Chantelle Green, a Blenheim Hidden Harm Worker at Insight Platform, blogs about her work with families and children affected by substance misuse.
As a Hidden Harm worker, I like to describe my role as supporting ‘families in recovery’.
Working on Hidden Harm is about considering how a parent’s substance misuse impacts on a child, and working with the family through the process of recovery and beyond, to support the child’s emotional wellbeing and prevent intergenerational drug use.
The work on Hidden Harm is so important because it ensures children aren’t missed out of the recovery process. When adults join treatment, it will focus on the adult’s needs and safeguarding any children they have. But it’s also important to work with the child and the whole family in recovery, because no man is an island: if something is affecting an adult, it’s affecting their child, too.
At the centre of our work is delivering interventions that are empowering, not judgemental. We work with parents so they can understand the effects of their actions, and run age-appropriate activities with children – we aren’t here to judge or be punitive, but believe in everyone’s capacity to change.
“No man is an island: if something is affecting an adult, it’s affecting their child, too.”
Any intervention depends on where a child is at when they’re referred – their age, their experiences, their needs. No two care plans are the same.
It’s important that they feel comfortable with me so we start with worksheets to learn about each other and build up trust. With younger children, I might use boardgames, or Jenga bricks with questions written on them, to open up conversation and allow a young person to explore how they feel.
Parents may have a dual diagnosis of substance misuse and mental health problems, which may impact on their children’s emotional wellbeing and ability to form positive attachments. We use a variety of counselling techniques, such as motivational interviewing, Solution Focused brief interventions, CBT and mindfulness which takes place through 1-1 key working and group work sessions.
Notably, the work we do with children, young people and parents is about identity – working through with them where they feel they fit into the family unit. We observe family time in the play area here at Insight Platform to help us understand family dynamics and interactions and then discuss these in key work sessions.
Other interventions focus on building up the resilience of young people: empowering them to build up their own mechanisms to cope with problems and stresses by helping them map out and build on their own support networks. We say that life is like a river – it doesn’t always travel straight. There are going to be highs and lows and it’s about building up strategies to deal with the lows. The service here at Insight Platform also becomes a support network itself: we provide open-access support so when our structured work with a family officially ends, they can still access our group activities, our events, our clubs.
It is crucial to be inclusive and flexible in my approach to working with families across the community. To do this, I deliver key working sessions in schools across the borough, and satellite sessions in colleges, children’s centres and local youth provisions. I deliver satellite coffee mornings in primary schools, which are aimed at developing parents’ awareness on drug and alcohol, and the harm caused by parental substance misuse. Along with my colleagues at Insight Platform, I deliver Drug Awareness and Hidden Harm training to professionals in the borough of Haringey.
Having adults in treatment can have really positive outcomes for school attendance and child health, and wellbeing. But the outcomes of Hidden Harm work with families are not just about abstinence or recovery. We focus on the whole family dynamic, on confidence, communication, stability, and resilience. Substances will be why a family is referred, but this work really looks at the whole picture of their relationships. It’s really about their whole lives.
Chantelle Green, Hidden Harm Worker at Insight Platform, Haringey.
Insight Platform offer a free, friendly and confidential young people’s support service. We provide information, advice and help to children and young people up to the age of 21 in Haringey who are living with or affected by drug or alcohol issues.
Download Blenheim’s FAQs document for young people looking to find out more information for families and friends affected by substance misuse.