Question Sole Social Sciences

Social Work Intervention in Alcoholic Parents

What sort of social work intervention would a child of an alcoholic mother need in order to form secure attachments and minimise risks?

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Answer Internal Staff

In homes where a child has a parent experiencing alcohol dependency, there are a number of risks which may be present, both in terms of the child’s physical and personal safety and of the attachments they form with their parents. Attachment is an important component of parent-child relationships: an insecure attachment is thought to result in emotional and behavioural difficulties in later life, and may increase risks of the child indulging in self-destructive behaviours. The most likely form of social work intervention would begin with a strategy meeting in which various professionals with involvement in the case at hand will discuss the central issues and agree upon a strategy that can be implemented co-operatively. The social worker would work through the NSPCC’s ‘Signs of Safety’ approach (2013) with the parent(s): this is an approach which uses both Strength-based Interviews and techniques from Solution Focused Brief therapy to create a collaborative approach to problem-solving between the family and the social workers. This allows for the conducting of risk-assessments and production of action plans, and identifies the resources and the support network that the family have to draw upon. Alcoholic parents may neglect children, so parenting classes may be prescribed to assist their understanding of how their behaviour impacts on their child and to enable them to build their relationships. Progress may be monitored in TAC (Team Around the Child) meetings, attended by workers from multiple involved agencies, should the needs in the family identified be deemed to be unsuitable to be addressed by just one agency (though these would be kept to a minimum). The ideal outcome of these measures would be that the family feel better supported and are getting assistance for the issues that are impacting upon their family life, which in turn will enable them to bond more effectively with their child.


Bunn, A. (2013). ‘Signs of Safety in England: an NSPCC commissioned report on the Signs of Safety model in child protection’. Published and available online.