How are the Children?

In this activity, we explore how schools, social and health care services, and communities can support children after experiencing the trauma of addiction in their families.

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Introduction: Initial Questions (15 Minutes)

  1. Introduce the participants to the subject of “establishing place”. Ask the audience if they have any initial thoughts, questions, or concerns. Use this as a time to help provide clarity for the audience about the session. 
  2. Present the audience with the fact sheet outlining the effects addiction has on families, with an emphasis on how children are affected.


Engagement: General Discussion (30 Minutes)

  1. Give the participants the passage below. Read the passage aloud and then give participants enough time to read it again on their own.
  2. Once reading has concluded, ask the audience if they have any initial thoughts or feelings in regards to the passage.
  3. To facilitate further discussion, pose the following questions to the audience.
  4. How did you feel when you were reading the fact sheet?
    1. How did you feel when you were reading the fact sheet?
    2. How did you feel when you were reading the story about Abby?
    3. What are some of the consequences that Abby and other children might face if their basic needs are not met?
    4. Who in this story is helping Abby overcome adversity or trauma at home?
    5. What other types of support might help children experiencing trauma related to addiction in their families or communities?
    6. What does it mean to grow up in a stigmatized place?
    7. Are the employees of Belpre Elementary addressing stigma in their actions?


Conclusion: Wrap-Up and Next Steps (15 Minutes)

  1. Announce that 15-minutes remain for the session.
  2. Summarize the main points of the discussion. What were some of the key takeaways? Were there any differences in opinions? Any controversies? Were any major points about establishing place not addressed in the conversation? 
  3. Wrap up the session by speaking about the manuscript, additional resources, etc. Exchange contact information and continue further conversations if needed.


Fact Sheet: Some Information about Opioids in Ohio and the U.S.

Over 72,000 Americans died of a drug overdose in 2017; two-thirds of these deaths resulted from the use of illicit or prescription opioids. To put this into perspective, nearly 50,000 individuals died per year at the height of the HIV epidemic in the United States.

In 2017, there were around 58 opioid prescriptions written for every 100 Americans.

More than 17% of Americans had at least one opioid prescription filled, with an average of 3.4 opioid prescriptions dispensed per patient.

About 80 percent of people who use heroin first misused prescription opioids.

Drug overdose is now the leading cause of death for Americans under the age of 50; overall life expectancy has declined for the last two years in a row.

Every 25 minutes a baby is born addicted to opioids.

Foster home placements are on the rise; nearly ⅓ placements result from parental substance abuse.

Children who face trauma during their development, such as parental opioid addiction, are at higher risk for school failure, future alcohol or drug use, and chronic health problems.

Ohio is one of the top five states with the highest rates of opioid overdose.

The rate is more than double the national rate.


Sources: Centers for Disease Control, National Institute on Drug Abuse; American Academy of Pediatrics


Reading: Excerpt from “How are the Children?” by Joy Edgell

As some of our young families struggle in a chaotic world, their children are growing up with many uncertainties. Some are being raised by parents with severe addictions. Opioids have made a strong presence in our community and some families have been torn apart fighting to keep their loved ones out of its clutches. This has left students to be raised by a variety of relatives such as a grandma or aunt--some are not sure who will be home in the evening to take care of them. As a principal and a mother, this is a fact I quickly realized five years ago, as I entered this job. Maslow taught us that if an individual’s basic needs are not met, that individual will struggle to grow and progress in other areas of their life. Our kids need the basic foundation of love, acceptance, security, and food in order to focus and learn in a classroom. Unfortunately, in many cases, we have to take hours out of a school day to ensure that a student eats breakfast, has shoes that fit, or is simply clean enough to focus.

Two years ago, we welcomed a kindergarten girl—we’ll call her Abby—who faced many obstacles, the simplest one being cleanliness. She would come to school with matted hair, clothes that were three sizes too big and covered in stains, and fingernails caked with dirt. You can imagine the smell connected with this little body. Our elementary used to be a middle school, complete with two locker rooms with shower bays. We knew we had to build enough of a relationship with this family in order to gain permission for her to bathe at school so that we could help her create a positive image with friends and be part of a classroom. We were able to gain the trust of the family, and we discovered their house had dirt floors, many windows were missing, and the water had been turned off. They were living in an unforgiving cycle of poverty, disability, and drug use. We also built a closet for Abby in our locker room. Our team brought clothes, shower items, and hair bows to keep the closet stocked. Every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, Abby received a shower, with help from the school nurse, and her entire demeanor changed when she entered her classroom. Those are not needs that college courses teach you how to provide, but they are essential if we want children to learn and be loved.


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