Rehab and Child Custody

Written by Theresa Valenzky

& Medically Reviewed by Jenni Jacobsen, LSW

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Last Updated - 2/19/2023

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Updated 02/19/2023

One of the best ways to regain custody after drug abuse is to seek treatment so you can care for your children without the interference of addiction.

If you’re a parent with a substance use disorder, you may ask, “Can a parent lose custody for drug use?” This concerns many parents, and getting drug and alcohol addiction treatment will improve your parenting and benefit your children. Learn about rehab and child custody matters to know what to expect when seeking treatment.

Choosing To Go to Rehab When You Have Kids 

Deciding to go to rehab when you have children can be challenging. One of the biggest barriers parents encounter concerns losing their kids. They may also worry about how their children will be cared for when they are in a treatment facility. These are valid concerns, but when parents seek treatment for substance use disorder, they reduce the negative consequences of addiction on their children. 

How Addiction Affects Children

Research has shown that parental addiction has numerous adverse effects on children. Children growing up with parents who struggle with substance use disorder are at risk of attachment problems, meaning they have difficulty forming healthy bonds with their caretakers. This can occur because drug and alcohol use disorders can disrupt bonding and interactions between parents and children. 

According to research findings, the unpredictable lifestyle that comes with substance use disorder negatively impacts child development, putting children at risk of having mental and emotional health problems and difficulty at school. Other problems associated with parental addiction children experience include having trouble regulating their attention and emotions, lacking social skills and an increased risk of psychiatric problems.

Losing Custody Due to Addiction

Given that addiction has negative consequences for child development, children whose parents misuse substances are at risk of being removed from the home by the child welfare system. Substance use disorder can make it difficult for parents to provide proper care and supervision. When the substance use disorder becomes severe, parents may fail to provide basic needs like food, clothing and medical care because most of their resources are used to maintain the addiction.

Research conducted within the child welfare system has found parental substance misuse is linked to reports of child maltreatment and an increased risk of children being placed in foster care. This means that if a parent chooses not to seek rehab and their substance use disorder does not improve, they are more likely to lose custody than if they got treatment and stopped misusing substances. 

How To Prepare for Rehab if You Have Children 

Losing custody due to drug addiction is possible, but getting treatment can help keep your family together. If you have children and are considering going to rehab, some preparation is required to ensure they will be safe and cared for while you are away from home.

For example, finding a suitable caregiver who can provide for your children while you are in rehab is critical. This may be a grandparent, aunt, uncle or another family member willing to open up their home and provide daily care for your children while you are gone. When parents think about rehab and child custody, they are often worried that Child Protective Services (CPS) will remove their children from the home if they seek treatment. However, if you find an appropriate caretaker and make arrangements on your own, there is often no reason for CPS to be involved.

After choosing a caretaker, it’s important to contact your child’s school or daycare provider to inform staff that an alternative caretaker is permitted to pick your child up and make decisions on your behalf. You should also contact your child’s doctor to ensure this caretaker has permission to seek medical care for your child. 

What To Tell Your Children 

Another consideration when preparing for rehab is discussing it with your children. While the conversation will differ depending on the ages of your children, at the very least, you must tell them you will be going away for a while, and they will be cared for in your absence.

Children like knowing what to expect and have a right to know what will happen to them. Older children, such as teens, can probably handle a conversation where you tell them you’re going away to rehab and they’ll be staying with relatives. If you have younger children, you might tell them you’re sick and going away to get better, but they will be safe with grandma while you’re gone. 

Children must know your substance use disorder or illness is not their fault, and they will continue to go to school, see their friends and be cared for while you’re gone. 

What To Expect During Rehab

Expect to spend time away from your children and family when you are in rehab. If you’re in an inpatient facility, you will remain onsite around the clock and won’t return home at night. Many rehab programs have phone restrictions, so you may only get to call home during designated times.

Inpatient rehab programs at The Recovery Village Columbus can also offer family programming when appropriate. Studies have consistently shown that addiction affects the entire family. With this in mind, we may invite family members to video calls on certain days to attend counseling sessions. Your family will learn how addiction affects the whole family and how you can support a loved one in rehab. As you journey through recovery, your family members, including children, may participate in family therapy sessions with you or be referred to support groups or individual counseling sessions to help them cope with their personal struggles.

Are There Rehabs That Allow You To Bring Your Kids?

Depending on your situation and chosen facility, taking your child with you to rehab can be possible. While not all inpatient programs allow children to come with parents, some specialty facilities accept children. 

This option may not be appropriate for everyone. The Recovery Village Columbus is an adults-only facility with limited visitor access to help patients focus entirely on their recovery for better outcomes. Getting away from the stressors of daily life allows patients the opportunity to work solely on their physical and mental health. 

For those where extended childcare with family or friends is not an option, outpatient appointments are often easier to schedule short-term childcare around. If you have a strong support system and feel confident you can stay committed to recovery while living at home, an outpatient program allows you to attend appointments at a clinic and return home each night. 

Start Your Treatment Journey Today

If you have children and are worried about losing custody due to drug addiction, seeking treatment is the best option. When you recover from substance use disorder, you’ll be more present as a parent without alcohol or drugs interfering with your ability to care for your children.

The Recovery Village Columbus offers a full range of addiction treatment services, including medical detox, inpatient rehab and outpatient treatment. We are located just outside Columbus in the suburb of Groveport. It’s time to get your life back. Our Recovery Advocates are ready to answer your questions and start your admission.

View Sources

Salo, S.; Flykt, M. “The impact of parental addiction on chil[…]d development.” Parenting and substance abuse: Developmental approaches to intervention, 2013. Accessed December 2, 2022.

Radel, Laura; Baldwin, Melinda; Crouse, Gilbert; Ghertner, Robin; Waters, Annette. “Substance Use, the Opioid Epidemic, and […]Methods Study.” ASPE Research Brief, March 7, 2018. Accessed December 2, 2022.

Lander, Laura; Howsare, Janie; Byrne, Marilyn. “The Impact of Substance Use Disorders on[…]y to Practice.” Social Work in Public Health, 2013. Accessed December 2, 2022.


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