“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.