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. 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 these children face the stress and heartache of their parents' drinking or drug use in their daily lives, they are at greater risk of eventually developing alcohol or other drug abuse and mental health problems themselves. The innovative Hazelden Betty Ford Children's Program is designed for young people ages 7-12 who've been affected by alcoholism or drug abuse in the family. Through activities, stories and sharing led by trained counseling staff, children learn to identify and express their feelings, develop coping and self-care skills, deepen communication with their parent or adult caregiver, and 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. A Support Program for Children of Addicts: Learning How to Stay Healthy and Safe Children who grow up in a family with active addiction can't always count on feeling safe and protected at home. Instead, having a drug addicted or alcoholic parent 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 it means to be addicted and how alcoholism and drug abuse affect families. Children talk openly about their experiences in a safe, supportive environment and are encouraged to 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 are struggling with the same problems) There are healthy ways to cope with the pain and difficulties caused by their parents' substance abuse See program dates or call one of our Children's Program locations in California (1-760-773-4291), Colorado (1-303-745-2275) or Minnesota (1-651-213-4720) to learn more and register. Children's Program Overview What happens in the Children's Program? The Children's Program blends learning, playing and growing. With the care and guidance of licensed counselors, children get to know one another through fun group activities. Kids are also empowered to express themselves in a number of ways, including writing and drawing. Small-group sessions include: Role-play exercises Games Artwork Recreational activities Parents/caregivers join their children for a portion of the program to work on: Opening the lines of communication Sharing feelings and concerns with one another Healing the hurt in their relationships Why is it important for children who have an addicted parent to participate? 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 from alcoholic and other drug addicted families are at increased risk of developing a drinking problem or other drug addiction. Equipping youngsters with healthy living skills is an effective form of prevention. How does the program help a family deepen its healing? Through artwork, stories and letters to "Addiction," children share with their parents what it's been like for them to come home to an alcoholic or drug addict every day. This is a very moving experience for kids and parents alike. Parents listen without interrupting and, at a later time in the program, have the opportunity to respond. For most parents, that response involves asking for forgiveness and letting their children know how much they love them. On the last day, the program focuses on how the family will move forward in recovery. What can I say to parents to encourage their participation? Adults who've grown up in an addicted family or with an alcoholic parent can give their children the 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. Parents also have the opportunity to alter the cycle of substance abuse in their family. What happens at the conclusion of the program? Children "graduate" with their own self-care plan for coping and staying safe through any tough times ahead. Counseling staff meet with each family to discuss continuing care recommendations and referrals. During the last day of the program, each family outlines the steps they plan to take for both the individual and collective health of the family. How often does the Children's Program take place? The program occurs once or twice a month at our locations in Rancho Mirage, California, Aurora, Colorado and Center City, Minnesota. How much does the program cost? If a family has the resources, the program fee is $625 per child, which also covers parent's participation. Financial assistance is available. No child will ever be turned away due to an inability to pay. The actual cost per child to run the program is much higher. The difference in cost is made up through generous donations. Is sobriety a prerequisite for program participation? Adults who participate in the Children's Program must be sober for a minimum of 30 days or currently enrolled in a alcohol or drug addiction treatment program. All participants are required to remain free of mood altering chemicals for the program's duration. What should my child bring to the program? Children should dress casually and comfortably, as they will be doing hands-on activities all day Lunch and snacks are provided each day of the program Children should bring a swimsuit and towel Learn more about the Children's Program and how kids are learning healthy ways to cope. Learn more and hear from staff and program participants in these Children's Program videos. 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. Reach Out with Care and Support You can help kids find healing and hope from the hurt of addiction. No child is ever turned away due to inability to pay. Please consider a donation today so the Children's Program can be there with open arms for the next child who needs our help. *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 For more information, or to register, call one of our Children's Program locations in California (1-760-773-4291), Colorado (1-303-745-2275) or Minnesota (1-651-213-4720).