One of the biggest issues facing young children growing up in households affected by addiction is an inability to bond, says Jessy Miller, director of drug and alcohol programs at Children’s Service Center in Wilkes-Barre.
“It’s important during the formative years to have that parent-child bond,” Miller said. “Sometimes that will manifest with difficulty in school and engaging in structure and routine or isolation from friends and teachers.”
Sometimes, school officials will be the first to notice that children from unhealthy and difficult homes are struggling to sit still for long periods of time and follow rules.
When school age children lack a parent-child bond, it’s tough for them to form relationships later in life. They often have an inability to self-regulate and suffer from emotional instability, Miller said.
“They’re not understanding what’s really going on inside them and having feelings of abandonment or trust issues,” he said. “We tend to think it’s just a behavior issue but there’s more to it.”
Children’s Service Center has seen an increase in the number of children impacted by the opioid epidemic, Miller said.
In some cases in which parents struggle with addictions, children have been removed from their care and placed with grandparents or foster parents. Some parents work to become sober but struggle with parenting, he said.
Children’s Service Center offers a wide range of programs to assist children and families suffering as a result of the opioid crisis.
The center recently started a pilot program in the Pittston Area School District that provides prevention education.
Children who come from chaotic home environments, particularly where parents abuse drugs, often are at risk to use drugs themselves later in life, Miller said.
The program focuses on high-risk children who have experienced ineffective parenting or a lack of a parent-child attachment or exhibit inappropriate classroom behavior or poor social coping skills.
Miller said the average age that drug users start experimenting with drugs in Luzerne County is dangerously low: 11 years old.
“Too often, we wait for children to have experimented with drugs or alcohol and then we get them into services,” Miller said. “We are looking for children in school who are being raised by grandparents or a single parent or who have parents who are sober but could use some parenting education or prevention education techniques.”
The program provides services to families in the school, the community and the home.
Children’s Service Center also offers other services such as individual therapy and parent-child interaction therapy.
“What we’re trying to do is find a way to engage families,” Miller said. “Services are available here and throughout our community.”
Family Services Association of Northeastern Pennsylvania offers services such as trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy for children and adolescents who lost a parent to a drug overdose or who have been impacted by other trauma, said CEO Michael Zimmerman.
Wyoming Valley Alcohol & Drug Services offers prevention education in school districts throughout Luzerne County, said CEO Jason Harlen. Additionally, the agency has family meetings on Wednesday nights from 6 to 8 p.m. at 437 N. Main St.
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