Children’s Program

If a child you love is impacted by a family member’s substance abuse, they need to know that addiction is not their fault and it’s not their job to “fix” grown-up problems. Our award-winning Children’s Program helps kids understand that their number one job is to be a kid. We also teach children skills and strategies for self-care through activities that are big on fun.
Children on the playground

Help for Your Child if You Have Addiction in Your Family

The Hazelden Betty Ford Children's Program provides support, education and care to kids who grow up in a family with alcohol or other drug addiction. When children learn they did not somehow cause or contribute to their loved one's alcohol or drug addiction, a huge weight is lifted. That's a key takeaway for kids who participate in our Children's Program. The self-care skills and strategies children learn in the program set them up to make healthy choices in the future as well. 

Offered in-person at three Hazelden Betty Ford locations as well as nationwide through virtual sessions, the Children’s Program is led by trained counseling staff and designed for kids ages 7-12.

In-Person Children’s Program

Children participate in programming on site, over several consecutive days. The program is offered monthly. Contact the location nearest you to learn more about times and days: 

Virtual Children’s Program

Children and caregivers participate via Zoom over a two-day period, with three-hour sessions each day. Caregiver and child components are conducted separately, and the majority of the program time is for the kids. Ongoing continuing care services for kids, caregivers, and teens are available upon completion of this initial program.

El Programa para Niños

El Programa para Niños ofrece servicios en persona y virtuales de apoyo para los niños y las familias afectadas por el consumo de sustancias y las enfermedades mentales. Aprende más.

You probably know all too well how addiction can pull families apart. The good news is that recovery can bring families closer together. But healing involves learning new ways of understanding and relating to one another. Our Virtual Caregiver Workshop is designed to support and guide you in caring for a child who’s been impacted by a loved one’s addiction. This three-hour workshop will help you create an atmosphere of communication and trust within your recovering family. 

Let's Talk

Meet Miaveya and Reyna

Learn more about the healing power of love, communication and acceptance from 10 year-old Children’s Program participant, Miaveya, and her mom, Reyna, who shared their story with Let’s Talk podcast host William C. Moyers.

Family playing at the beach

Empowering Kids to Stay Healthy and Safe

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), one in four children in the U.S. experience alcohol abuse or drug addiction in their family. For children and teens, living with an alcoholic or drug addicted parent can be a chaotic, scary and lonely experience. Not only do children face daily stressors and heartache due to their parents' drinking or drug use, they are at greater risk of eventually developing alcohol or other drug abuse and mental health problems themselves.

The award-winning Hazelden Betty Ford Children's Program is designed for kids who've been affected by alcoholism or drug abuse in the family. Through guided activities, storytelling and sharing, children learn to:

  • Identify and express their feelings
  • Develop coping and self-care skills
  • Deepen communication with their parent or adult caregiver
  • Recognize they are not alone in navigating the challenges of growing up with an addicted family member

Just as important, the program provides the opportunity for children to play games, enjoy recreational activities, de-stress and be themselves.

Feeling a Little Less Alone

Children who grow up in a family with active addiction can't always count on feeling safe and protected at home. Instead, having a parent with active addiction often means home life is filled with unpredictable behavior, conflict and broken promises.

  • Since its inception in 1983 at the Betty Ford Center, the Children's Program has helped thousands of kids and families. Through age-appropriate activities, our multi-day program teaches kids what addiction is and how alcoholism and drug abuse affect families. In our safe, supportive environment, children learn that it’s okay to talk (and healthy!) about their experiences and express their fears, feelings and concerns. The program is designed to help kids realize:
  • Addiction is a disease (an “addict” or “alcoholic” is a sick person, not a bad person)
  • Addiction is not their fault or their responsibility
  • They are not alone (other kids struggle with the same problems)
  • There are healthy ways to cope with the pain and difficulties caused by a parent’s substance abuse
  • People with addiction are not bad people
  • It's OK to ask for help
  • A kid's #1 job is to be a kid!

Five FAQs about the Children’s Program

The Children's Program blends learning and play through developmentally appropriate content and activities. With the care and guidance of highly trained counselors, children get to know one another through fun group activities. Kids are also empowered to express themselves in a number of ways.

Learning that your parent's alcoholism or substance abuse is not your fault is very powerful for a child. It allows the child to be a kid again. Research shows a genetic component to addiction, so children who have a family history of the disease are at increased risk of developing substance use and mental health problems themselves. Equipping youngsters with healthy living skills is an effective form of prevention.

Through artwork, stories and letters to "Addiction," children share with their parents what it's been like for them to live with the chaos and uncertainty of addiction. This is a very moving experience for kids and adults alike.

Adults who grew up with addiction in their family can give their children a gift they never received as kids—the opportunity to heal from the pain and chaos caused by a parent's alcohol abuse or drug addiction. Through the Children’s Program, parents also have the opportunity to break the cycle of substance abuse in their family.

Children "graduate" with a better understanding of addiction as well as a better ability to identify and express their feelings. Kids also begin the process of creating self-care strategies for themselves and identifying safe people who can provide support. Counseling staff contact each family to provide continuing care recommendations and encouragement to continue seeking services for their child and the collective health of the family.

Research Proves Program Effectiveness

A comprehensive evaluation of the Children's Program conducted by the nonprofit Treatment Research Institute found compelling evidence of the positive impact on kids.* As summarized in the study, children who participated in the program gained an accurate view of the complex and chronic nature of alcoholism and other drug addiction. The following statements by children were quoted in the report:

  • "I learned why people relapse and that it's not their fault."
  • "That addiction can get you very quickly."
  • "Don't get stuck by addiction."
  • "Addiction is really hard to get rid of but you can through help."

Children also learned that the family problems they were experiencing were not their fault or their responsibility. The report quotes one child who expressed relief to know "how it wasn't her fault when her dad drank and got mad at her." Another said, "My own job is to be a kid."

Parents describe their family's experience in the program as "transformative" for their children and themselves.

"Parents are so grateful to see the changes in their children," explains a Hazelden Betty Ford Children's Program counselor. "They talk about a weight being lifted, or a sparkle returning—their children are laughing and giggling again. They aren't carrying the weight of the world on their shoulders anymore."

The Treatment Research Institute study reports reductions in behavioral and emotional problems among children who took part in the program.

*Disrupting the Legacy of Addiction: An Evaluation of the Betty Ford Children's Program, Treatment Research Institute, May 2014; Amelia Arria, PhD, Amy Mericle, PhD 

Help Us Help More Kids

Addiction often puts families in financial ruin, and those are exactly the children who most need help and support. Please consider a donation today so the Children's Program can be there with open arms for the next child who needs our help. No child is ever turned away from our program due to inability to pay.

For questions or to talk with a Children’s Program counselor, please contact us at:

California Team           1-760-773-4291
Colorado Team           1-303-745-2275
Minnesota Team           1-651-213-4720


Addiction Resources for Children, Teens, Parents and the Community

You and your children can find support, inspiration and education through these free online resources and activities available. We invite your family to check out the helpful resources and activities our Children's Program team put together. 

Group of young kids