Secret lives: growing with substance
Working with children and young people affected by familial substance misuse
Edited by Fiona Harbin & Michael Murphy

Secret Lives is the sister volume to Substance Misuse and Child Care. It offers new and challenging insights into the task of working with children and young people who are affected by substance misuse, particularly those who are:
  • brought up in substance misusing households
  • beginning to misuse substances themselves in this context.

  • The nature and incidence of the misuse of substances are a source of increasing concern within our society. The debate about the appropriate response to that misuse often only considers the user of that substance. This work concerns the impact that misuse has on the children who live with the user, who are so often the forgotten population in the substance misuse system. The title of this book, Secret Lives, was suggested by a nine year old for the children's group that she was a part of.

    Studies suggest that for the majority of local authorities substances are an integral factor in over a third of child protection cases and an increasing number of family support referrals. This significance is not reflected in the scant literature regarding parental substance misuse, in particular the impact of parental and sibling drug misuse on children themselves. This book brings together the work of researchers and practitioners who have developed services that can help us improve our response to these children. It aims to aid practitioners and managers in the identification, assessment, treatment and support of the children and siblings of substance misusers.

    Paperback. 160 pages. 978-1-903855-66-9. Published 2006. £16.95.


    What do we know about children and young people who grow up in substance misusing households? Michael Murphy & Fiona Harbin
    Reaching out: promoting resilience in the children of substance misusers Richard Velleman & Lorna Templeton
    Using group work to support young people living with substance misuse Ellen Wheeler
    Separation, substance misuse and children in alternative care Deborah Evans & Fiona Harbin
    Children, alcohol and family violence Deborah Evans
    The roller coaster of change: the process of parental change from a child's perspective Fiona Harbin
    Whole family treatment services Fiona Harbin & Michael Murphy
    Where it all begins: growing up and the helping relationship Phil Harris
    The impact of sibling substance misuse on children and young people Nicola Taylor & Jackie Kearney
    Setting up a substance project for young people Tom O'Loughlin & Dave Seaber


    Practitioners, students, volunteers, managers from the childcare and the substance misuse systems. Also those with a more general interest in the welfare of children and young people.


    Fiona Harbin
    is the Multi Agency Substance Misuse Training Coordinator for Bolton Social Services Drug Action Team, having worked as a social worker since 1989, and specifically with children and families where substance was affecting parenting since 1996. She currently works as Young Persons Substance Misuse Training Coordinator in Bolton. She has co-edited with Michael Murphy Substance Misuse and Childcare (RHP 2001), and contributed a chapter with Michael Murphy to Assessment in Childcare, edited by Calder and Hackett (RHP 2003).

    Michael Murphy is a senior lecturer in the faculty of Health and Social Care at Salford University. He is also chair of the Bolton Substance Misuse research group, which was the coordinating group for the Highs and Lows of Family Life, a Lottery funded research project. The group is currently seeking funding for a longitudinal research project on children brought up in substance misusing families. Publications from this group include The Highs and Lows of Family Life (2001, Salford University) and The Child's View (2004, Bolton ACPC/DAT). Michael co-edited Substance Misuse and Childcare (RHP, 2001).


    "Focuses on working with older children affected by substance misuse. Twelve separate contributions aim to address substance misuse issues from the child's perspective. That the children's lives are secret relates not only to the shame children feel about the substance dependency within their family, but also the parents' attempts to protect the child by lack of encouragement of discussion about what is wrong in the family… the resilience of some children where parents misuse… suggests that the outlook may not be as bleak as supposed. Protective factors that can overcome risk are identified and ways in which both the protective process and the child's resilience can be enhanced by therapy are discussed… highlights the need for a 'joined-up' approach between adult alcohol services and family support services, even to the extent of employing substance-misuse staff within children services and vice versa… attempts to remedy the somewhat sparse literature about the impact of a sibling misusing within the family… older, using siblings being less likely to protect the child from the worst effects of their substance misuse than parents would be… all the contributions are interesting and informed my knowledge of what services should be available to assist children… the book succeeds in allowing the views of children and young people caught in this sad situation poignantly to come through." Seen & Heard.

    "An impressive collaboration…a valid read for anyone working with children, young people, parents and families." Community Safety Journal.

    "Densely packed with useful research quotes, references and counselling tips. You can dip into the nine chapters in any order, using the information in two main ways. First, you could use the cornucopia of research to consolidate funding applications, to back up training or lectures, or to substantiate points you wish to make elsewhere. Second, you can use the therapeutic advice given just after the research to guide your own practice: the authors aim to help practitioners and managers in the identification, assessment, treatment and support of the children and siblings of substance misusers. Buy this book as a reference and investment - any good clinician will have a need to call on it at some time." Addiction Today.

    "an informative guide for anyone working with families where substance misuse is an issue. Most books of this genre discuss either how to assess the issue or how to work with it: this book does both, leaving the reader with a sense of confidence as to how they might go about working with this group of service users, as well as why they are working with them in this way... I recommend this book for all concerned about substance misuse." Community Care.

    "Makes a significant contribution to understanding the impact that alcohol and drug misuse has on growing children….an extremely relevant publication…Founded on current research,…demonstrates the extent to which we need to find new ways of delivering services and will be interest to health, education and social work practitioners. This book is informed, accessible and relevant." Rostrum.

    "The emphasis on positive intervention is what makes this book so valuable. It is arranged in 10 brief chapters giving many examples of innovative practice, such as group work with children, which succeeded in gaining the support of their substance-using parents, and an extremely helpful description of setting up a young people's service." Children Now.