the lost kids

“And please, Gracious God, help all the children of alcoholic parents…” went her prayer.  A member of our church prays this prayer outloud many Sundays.  And I hear it each time–and I pray it back.  But, this time, it shook me deep.  Finally.

Shame on me.  How could I forget my work with these kids?  All through my 20’s and into my early thirties, I dedicated my career to helping these kids.  I was a social worker/school counselor working in say, 3 or 4 different schools each week, and I would shake the schools upside down looking for them (indeed I created a paper-and-pencil survey to give to every student in school to find them).  I ran literally hundreds of support groups for COA kids with 8 kids in each.  Do that math and drop your jaw.

And then I moved out West, traded blue jeans for a suit and tie, and concentrated on working with care givers rather than kids themselves.  And then the bullying craze came along and everyone seemed to forget about kids and alcohol and other drug issues.  In my defense, I did not forget, but schools didn’t really want to go there any more, and conferences thought the topic a bit tired.

But, of course, the COA kids didn’t go away.  There are still as many as there once were, sad to say.  And even more disturbing is my observation that few professionals are working with these kids any longer (thank you to those that are!).  In my travels at conferences, and workshops,  I ask the direct service crowd if they are running support groups for COA’s, or at least doing some one-on-one work.  “Huh?” or “Oh, yeah, I remember when I did that group…” is what I hear.

The crazy thing is these are some of the easiest students to work with–they want help, and you get to see great results.  Think about it: kids who really are searching for answers as to why their mom drinks the way she does; students who, after working with you for a bit, have a spring in their step again and are making better choices.

Well, dammit, I am going to do what I can to remind the care giving community about these forgotten kids.  I can’t do direct services now as I am not working as a counselor, but there is one thing, for starters, I can easily do.

One of my publishers has decided to not re-publish a book of mine after a seventeen-year-long run.  This publication, a workbook written for COA kids, has always been a thorn in the publisher’s (and my) side.  First there was the title: I wrote the book with a working title of Get a Life!  (of your own) a workbook for young people struggling with somebody else’s drinking problem; they insisted the the title be Take Charge of Your Life….sounds like something out of Readers’ Digest, doesn’t it?

And then was the price.  They insisted that the price point be 6.95.  I told them that, at that price, school counselors will buy one workbook and then use the copy machine.  I lost both arguments.

But now I own the copyright again.  I can do what I want with it.  So, what I am doing is giving the book away in an effort to re-awaken the professional community of school counselors, social workers, intervention specialists, therapists, student assistance professionals, youth ministers, teachers, special education staff, aunts, uncles, parent volunteers.  You get the idea.  One does not need be a therapist to work with COA kids –in fact it’s better to not be.  They don’t need fixing–they need an extended helping hand, some information, and someone to listen to them sort it out.  Stick this workbook in their hand and you are half-way home.

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3 Responses to the lost kids

  1. Marsa Riggs says:

    I live in an area of TN where there are so many children dealing with alcoholic and drug addicted parents that this vicious cycle repeats itself too frequntly. I feel it’s because the children know no other way of life. To them it’s normal. I’m not an educated person beyond high school matriculation, however I’ve had personal experience with an alcoholic step father when growing up so I empathise with others dealing with that issue. I’d like to help in some small way.

  2. Helen Varvi says:

    Thank you for your honesty. I too got sidetracked from my work with COA’s. At an agency that I worked at a number of years ago we had grant funding to run after school groups and reached over 400 students in grades 2-4 each year.
    Now I have an opportunity to present a class to professionals in the field and I hope they realize that these children are still here. My challenge is finding recent, timely articles, research, etc. to distribute as handouts. It seems like most of the work stopped in the late ’90’s. If you have any sources for current literature I would love to hear about them, and will definitely research the rest of your website.

    • admin says:

      Hi Helen,

      I always appreciate hearing from other folks who did this good and important work. On behalf of all those COAs out there–Thank you for all that you did.
      I don;t find much current or new resources out there for us, but I do want to make sure that you saw my workbook for middle shool and teen COAs. Hazeldon used to sell it, but when they stopped printing it, I re-released it as a free publication. I’d be happy to offer this to you to distribute to your students. Just let me know and I’ll send you a pdf of it.

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