The rate of Substance Abuse among Children Experiencing Neglect in the US

The rate of Substance Abuse among Children Experiencing Neglect in the US

Substance abuse has been a significant problem in the US for decades. This has cut through generations as well as different groups of society in the country. According to Child Welfare Information,9 percent of the country’s children population which stands at approximately 6 million face abuse in the form of physical, sexual, or emotional, and neglect. One of such key groups is children experiencing neglect.  Child neglect is the failure of a parent or guardian to provide care to a child, care in the form of food, adequate shelter, clothing, and other basic life needs. Children in left in these circumstances are vulnerable to drug and substance abuse, either as a getaway or as a means for their survival without parents. This paper will therefore solely on the rate of substance abuse among children experiencing neglect in the US.

Ninety percent of U.S. adults who suffer from chronic problematic use started smoking, drinking, or using other drugs before age 18 (Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse, 2015). This data points to substance abuse starting early in life and proceeds to the rest of the life of children facing neglect in the US. According to statistics from the National Center for Children in Poverty, a neglected, homeless child is at a significant risk of substance use. The majority of homeless youth on the streets use substances such as tobacco at 81 percent, alcohol 80 percent, or marijuana at 75 percent. Substance abuse, therefore, is a prevalent problem facing this group of people in society ( Fallon et al.,2015).

Neglected African American and white children are highly likely to indulge in the consumption and abuse of marijuana, which stands at 21 percent of neglected black and white children. On the other hand, neglected Asian and Hispanic children indulged more in alcohol than their white and African American counterparts (Christian & Committee, 2016).


There are some significant programs which currently exist to address the problem of substance abuse among children experiencing Neglect in US. These programs however separate, help in the ultimate goal of solving the problem. There are those programs which aim to address child neglect, just as there are those that specifically target to solve substance abuse among children and adolescents. To solve the problem of child neglect, some policy approaches have been put in place. These mainly focus on both the perpetrators of child abuse or neglect the majority of programmes focus on victims or perpetrators of child abuse and neglect (Kleinman, 2015). They not only aim to prevent this problem to happen but also offer a reform mechanism for those that have gone through or undergoing the same problem. One of such approaches is the Family Support Approaches. This seeks to provide appropriate training in parenthood and offer working models for family support. Here, parents are adequately educated on the development of their child as well as assist them to improve their skills in managing the behavior of their children.

Another important programme is the home visitation programme. Here community resources are brought to vulnerable families in their homes. For some years, it has grown to be one of the most promising techniques to curb child abuse and neglect. Health service approach is another set of programmes to control child neglect. These are programmes which involve health professionals and give them a central role to play in identifying, treating and referring cases of abuse and neglect and in reporting suspected cases of maltreatment to the appropriate authorities. The other set of policies are those that focus on solving and addressing the problem of substance abuse among children. One of such systems is involving the school if any of the neglected children are school going. School plays a central role in shaping a child’s behavior and world view at an early age in life. School is continuously in a child’s life. When a child brings his or her problem of drug abuse to the school environment, the school has the mandate to address it and implement effective change. Even though these programs have been put in place; relevant authorities should put in more work in trying to curb substance abuse among neglected children. Some of the lacking programs are those that address the root cause of abuse and neglect by parents, the things that make them neglect their kids as well as the predisposing factors which make neglected children indulge in drug abuse.

Child abuse and neglect first became a serious topic in the mainstream in the 1960s. According to a publication, “The Battered Child-Syndrome” of 1962, written by Dr. C Henry Kempe, a psychiatrist expert and published in American Medical Association Journal; it highlights the historical point in which child abuse became seriously highlighted in the public platform and mainstream. Before this publication, child abuses were majorly neglected, and many cases went unreported. Injuries that would come from incidents of violence would be overlooked as mere accidents or injuries got from bullies in the neighborhood and the parents’ accounts taken as the accurate sequence of what led to these injuries. Impact of this publication was, giving a new perspective on child injuries, and that they would be as a result of physical abuse from their parents. It is from this point that some institutions begun to put frameworks to highlight, educate and solve child neglect and abuse.

There are some policies which have been enacted to solve the problem of substance abuse among neglected children in the US. There are organizations at all levels such as national, state, county and local level which have come up with effective policies to curb this problem, some of which have become very effective. The National Alliance of Children’s Trust Funds, Prevent Child Abuse America, and UNICEF are recognized organizations which have enacted effective policies to solve this problem (Farrell, 2017). Child Welfare Law in the US has been adopted and focuses on the legal response to child abuse as well as neglect.UNICEF, the United Nations, and a global body has enacted several policies which protects the welfare of children some of which have been adopted by member states in promoting the health of children. These policies have potentially perpetuated abuse on child oppression by giving abusers global attention. Even though child abuse is a crime which has a possibility of having adverse effects on the child, like leading him or her to drugs and substance abuse, perpetrators feel encouraged by the global attention it receives.

Children who have experienced abuse and neglect, as well as indulged in substance abuse, have the potential of becoming physical abusers as well as drug addicts in the future, in their adult lives. Victims of child abuse have been affected psychologically like chronic low self-esteem as well as antisocial behavior (Van der Kolk, 2015). An abused child may also attempt self-harm such as getting suicidal as well as physically harming him or herself. The other effect of abuse is the victim having learning disorders as well as attention problems. These consequences will not only be on victims of violence but also spill over to society they live in, considering their behaviors and how they relate with people around them will even get adversely affected. Children substance abuse on the other hand at an early age has a  potential of them being future drug addicts in their adult lives. Also, at an early age, a child’s brain is still developing, and consumption of drugs at that point in their lives presents a potential risk of brain underdevelopment as well as brain damage (Bywaters et al.,2016).

Child abuse neglect has become a human rights issue because, in various instances, abusers use physical violence, some of the children are sexually assaulted as well as turned into sex slaves, as well as forced physical labor (Fortson et al.,2015). These contradictions can be addressed by arresting perpetrators of abuse, as well as rehabilitating these children already indulged in substance abuse. Rehabilitation centers will be useful in solving the inherent problem of substance abuse among children. Urgent action is needed because of children as the future of any community. From 2009 to 2016 National Surveys on Drug Use and Health, about 1 in 8 children (8.7 million) aged 17 or younger lived in households with an abusive parent.

This study on the rate of substance abuse among children experiencing neglect in the US has contributed significantly to my service learning. I have gained knowledge on some child welfare issues as well as some factors which lead to children indulging substance abuse. Also, I have advanced knowledge of the effects of child abuse, on both the victim and the society he or she come from. Am able to connect what I have studied in class to what needs the organization has, by connecting my experiences with knowledge gained in class to come up with appropriate solutions for related problems. This experience goes beyond community service because it directly engages academic work and research done in and out of the classroom. I have since developed a deeper understanding and comprehension of what victims of child abuse go through, as well as how much this affects them in their lives as adults.

In summary, children facing abuse as well as parental neglect are the most delicate section of our community. They need help and proper guidance as well as treatment for the victims. Abuse at that early age has a huge potential of creating future predators as well as abusers. Policy and programs alone are not enough. They also need a solid support base, which would not victimize or ridicule them as a result of their ugly experiences. This goes to children who indulge in drugs at an early age as well. Pulling them out of this ditch is a function of every individual and organization. We have a mandate of building our communities from the ground up, and this will only be possible by giving the next generation a firm foundation and strong values while they are still young kids.






Bywaters, P., Bunting, L., Davidson, G., Hanratty, J., Mason, W., McCartan, C., & Steils, N. (2016). The relationship between poverty, child abuse and neglect: An evidence review. Joseph Rowntree Foundation, York, United Kingdom.

Christian, C. W., & Committee on Child Abuse and Neglect. (2015). The evaluation of suspected child physical abuse. Pediatrics, 135(5), e1337-e1354.

Fallon, B., Van Wert, M., Trocmé, N., MacLaurin, B., Sinha, V., Lefebvre, R., & Rha, W. (2015). Ontario incidence study of reported child abuse and neglect 2013. Canadian Child Welfare Research Portal.

Farrell, C. A., Fleegler, E. W., Monuteaux, M. C., Wilson, C. R., Christian, C. W., & Lee, L. K. (2017). Community poverty and child abuse fatalities in the United States. Pediatrics, 139(5), e20161616.

Fortson, B. L., Klevens, J., Merrick, M. T., Gilbert, L. K., & Alexander, S. P. (2016). Preventing child abuse and neglect: A technical package for policy, norm, and programmatic activities.

Kleinman, P. K. (Ed.). (2015). Diagnostic imaging of child abuse. Cambridge University Press.

National Center for Children in Poverty (2018)

Van der Kolk, B. A. (2017). This issue: child abuse & victimization. Psychiatric Annals, 35(5), 374-378.