For a moment on that cool summer night, I could have passed as a normal child. In a room filled with middle-school giggles and sleeping bags, we were in full sleepover mode. Until the door slammed. Not tonight, I thought. Not when my friends are here.
Then the yelling began. And as it always did, the yelling turned to screaming, and screaming turned to punching, and fear enveloped my body.
I grew up in a drug-infested, abuse-filled home. I’m now in my 30s, and it’s hard to recall the details of this particular fight—one of too many. But I distinctly remember the cool air pressing against hot tears on my cheeks as my friends and I fled from my house. I cried for my childhood, for fear of losing my mother, for the loss of innocence I saw in my friends’ eyes.
Our neighbors took us in that night. It wasn’t the first time they’d opened their home, and it wouldn’t be the last. I don’t remember their names—trauma has a way of making the mind foggy. Only one thing sticks out: they always talked about Jesus.
Everyone Knows Someone
There’s an epidemic of families affected by drug and alcohol abuse. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) noted that in 2017, nearly 38 percent of adults battled an illicit drug use disorder. According to another SAMHSA report, about 1 in 10 children lived in households with at least one parent having an alcohol disorder and 1 in 35 children with a parent having a drug disorder. SAMHSA believes these numbers are steadily increasing.
It’s likely you have a friend, family member, or neighbor fighting addiction. As Christians, we can imitate God’s concern for the vulnerable by helping to care for addicts’ children. Though each family snared by substances will have unique problems, believers can trust God to provide the discernment and grace we need for every situation. I’ve wondered how I can help children suffering like I did. Bringing awareness is a good place to start.
Increasingly, many children are removed from their homes because of parental drug or alcohol abuse. These children need stability. One significant way Christians can help is by providing refuge to these kids through adoption or foster care.
However, providing refuge isn’t isolated to fostering and adoption. Every day, children of parental addiction are surrounded by chaos and anxiety. Christians can create safe environments where they can be silly, have fun, and simply be kids. If you’re related to someone suffering from addiction, consider providing a safe home for the children until the parents can properly care for them. If you’re a friend or neighbor, look for opportunities to invite these children into your home like my neighbor did. Just a few hours in a safe environment can have a significant effect.
Fill Practical Needs
Along with addiction usually comes poverty. Addicts will use most of their income on more drugs.
Christians can create safe environments where children of addicts can be silly, have fun, and simply be kids.
Children who suffer any degree of neglect are unlikely to disclose their needs to an adult. Let’s follow in the footsteps of our Savior by opening our eyes and hearts to the needs of these children. Depending on what you observe, you might drop off a care package with toiletries, invite them over for a home-cooked meal, or ask for their clothing size and pick up a few things on your next shopping trip. Through us, God can show them he is the Provider of all they need.
Take Interest in Them
Scanning the crowd during my middle-school play, disappointment fell heavy on my heart. There among the faces were my friend’s parents, but not mine. I caught a ride home that night and walked into an empty house feeling a loneliness so deep that I wept.
Most of these children lack a stable adult at the most pivotal times. We can never replace their parents, but what if we fought to show them they aren’t alone in this world? What if we introduced them to our heavenly Father who faithfully loves his children? We can do this by showing up at their ball games and recitals, giving them rides, taking them out for ice cream, inviting them over for dinner, and bringing them with us to church (with parental permission).
Children of addiction need someone to fight for them. They need advocates. Sometimes this means we have to involve authorities.
We can never replace their parents, but what if we fought to show them they aren’t alone in this world?
In the case of neglect or child abuse, the child’s safety must come first. It’s heartbreaking when children are taken from their parents, but there are times when it’s absolutely necessary.
One way to make a huge difference in a child’s life is to become a Court-Appointed Special Advocate. These trained volunteers work alongside legal and child welfare professionals to provide judges with information regarding each child’s situation, helping them make decisions in the best interest of each child.
Another way to help is by donating to or serving with organizations like the National Association of Children of Addiction.
Fighting for these children often involves fighting for their parents. This is grueling work, but it’s also gospel work. Coming alongside those trapped by addiction and encouraging them to get the help they need to find freedom is one of the best ways we can advocate for their children. Organizations like American Addiction Centers exist to help with recovery.
Lastly, we can pray. As we pray, we advocate for these children with the Father. Pray for their parents, their safety, their hearts, their salvation. Whatever else we can do, we can always pray.
Children facing domestic violence and abuse need physical rescue, and they need to hear how they can be rescued spiritually. No matter how we decide to help, we should take every opportunity to tell the children of addiction about salvation through Jesus Christ.
God saved me in spite of my broken childhood, and he can do the same for others like me. He may want to do that through you.