Custody Considerations for Parents: Before, During, and After Inpatient Drug Rehab

How Impatient Rehab Works For Parents

When it comes to having substance abuse problems, it is vital to remember that those most often affected by substance abuse issues are direct family members, including spouses and children.

Parents dealing with substance abuse issues and looking into inpatient rehabilitation programs can be intimidating and downright scary. 

Entering into an inpatient rehabilitation program can mean leaving one’s comfort zone, but for parents, it also means separating from their children, at least for a short time. 

While this can be a frightening thought, it is essential to think through all childcare and reconciliation options before and after attending a rehabilitation program. 

Getting help for substance abuse can be the key to keeping custody and maintaining the relationship between parent and child.

Custody Options for Parents Attending Drug Rehab 

Many parents fear what will happen to their children while they are away, attending an inpatient treatment program. 

Will they lose custody of their child while attending an inpatient drug rehab facility? Who will care for their child?

Because drug addiction is such a severe issue, there is a chance a parent will lose custody of their child while attending rehab, particularly in the case of single parents. 

However, it is essential to remember that the Department of Child and Family Services always aims to keep families together if possible and in the child’s best interest.

The reality of the situation is, if a child’s primary caregiver is facing drug addiction, the child is being put at risk. 

This type of negligence does have the potential to affect custody, especially when the behavior is prolonged. This is why parents need to seek help for their substance abuse problems sooner rather than later.

Reaching out for help and entering into a rehabilitation program can show any agency or court involved in the child’s custody that the parent is serious about getting better. 

This sets a good example for the children involved, as they can see that their parent is getting help.

The question of whether a parent will lose custody of their child due to attending inpatient treatment is hard to answer simply. 

  • Parents may or may not lose custody of their child when attending inpatient rehabilitation. 
  • A parent may temporarily lose custody of their child but later have a chance to prove they can responsibly care for their child again.

The Child’s Well Being Comes First

There are certain aspects of a situation that could cause a parent to lose custody of their child. 

For instance, if a parent is arrested for a substance abuse-related issue, they may lose custody. If negligence is reported to the Department of Child and Family Services before help is sought, custody may be lost. 

Lastly, if the parent is going through a divorce and their ex-spouse accuses them of substance abuse, they may lose custody if the courts find evidence to support the claim. 

Parents should seek help as soon as possible when facing substance abuse problems to avoid these kinds of situations.

When it comes to regaining custody of a child, each situation is unique. 

If regaining custody is a potential for a parent, the court responsible for the ruling will typically direct the parent on what they need to do to prove they are fit. 

Most often, this includes: 

  • completing a rehabilitation treatment program
  • being able to prove recovery has been successful 
  • testing completely clean of any illicit substances

The timeline for regaining custody of a child varies from case to case, depending on: 

  • the time taken for treatment
  • the severity of the addiction
  • the level of neglect the child suffered
  • if the parent was arrested for drug possession

Before Inpatient Drug Rehab

When a parent is thinking about entering into an inpatient drug rehab facility, it’s crucial to: 

  • find someone to watch their child
  • inform their child about what is going on (to whatever extent is appropriate)
For Parents of Underaged Children 

Unfortunately, attending inpatient alcohol rehab is a little more difficult for parents with underage children. Sadly, very few inpatient alcohol rehab facilities have daycare available for patient’s children. 

Even if a daycare is present at the rehabilitation center, there is still the question of where the child stays overnight. 

If possible, children can attend a daycare program during the daylight hours and at night can stay with a friend or family member. 

Of course, older children have the option of going to school during the day and then being watched by a friend or family nights and weekends.

Custody Considerations For Couples 

If the parent looking into inpatient rehabilitation is not a single parent, their spouse may care for their child while the other parent is attending inpatient treatment. 

Also, the courts involved in the case may decide or weigh in on the decision as to where the child will stay while the parent is in rehab.

For Those Who Fear Leaving Their Children 

Many parents are hesitant to enter into an inpatient alcohol rehab center, as they fear they are leaving their child and are a terrible parental figure. This is simply untrue. 

Attending a rehabilitation program proves to everyone involved that the parent is doing all they can to get better. 

They understand where things have gone wrong and are determined to try and fix it, even if it means being away from their child for a while. 

Also, even if attending rehabilitation means parent and child separating for a time, the parent getting help through a rehabilitation program is an effort to ensure they do not need to be separated again in the future.

The Importance of Keeping in Contact During Treatment  

Once childcare is determined for the duration of the parents’ stay at an inpatient facility, it is crucial for the parent to talk to their child or children and explain to them what is going on appropriately for their age. 

Explanations will need to change based on what children can understand. Parents need to keep in mind that children are typically more observant than they are given credit for. They are perceptive, especially when it comes to problems within their family unit. 

While they may not understand that a rehabilitation program is necessary for their parents to feel better, they will likely have an idea that something is wrong within the home. 

It may not be appropriate for very young children to share any details of what is going on. Instead, parents will often tell young children that mommy or daddy is sick and needs to go away for a little while to get better. 

Reassure children that this is not their fault, and seeing a doctor will help parents get better sooner, so they can come back and spend more time together.

Talking to Older Children About Addiction Treatment 

Explaining what is going on to older children can be a little trickier, as they can understand more and often and may have picked up on the addiction more so than younger children. 

At this point, it may be in the parents’ best interest to be honest with their child about their addiction and to explain that rehabilitation is necessary to help them get better and stop abusing drugs or alcohol.

During Inpatient Rehabilitation

After entering into a program, it is essential for parents to do all they can to focus on the program and get better for their children. 

Inpatient rehabilitation stays typically do not extend past two to three months, though there are cases where longer stays are needed.

Shame is a topic that is typically addressed within rehabilitation programs for parents. This is because shame is often felt by parents facing addiction to a greater degree, as they have children who are depending on them and who they are responsible for. 

Parents will frequently feel like they are failing their child by having a substance abuse problem, and guilt over attending rehabilitation and leaving their child is often felt.

During treatment, it is possible children will not want to see their parents or visit them at the rehab center. 

Don’t Make Children Visit a Rehab Center

They mustn’t be forced to visit their parents, but therapy and counseling should be sought for the child to address underlying issues if their distress over the situation is significant. 

Substance abuse has the potential to affect children significantly, even without the parents’ knowledge. Addressing any concerns about the emotional health involved in the situation can help mitigate the potential emotional consequences of their parents’ substance abuse problem. 

How Therapy Can Help Rebuild Relationships

Therapists can clearly and unbiasedly explain the situation in a way children will understand, and they can help children work through their emotional concerns in a healthy manner.

Family counseling within the rehab program may also be offered, and all family members willing to attend should do so to show support. 

Older children may be present during these family counseling sessions as they better comprehend what is going on. 

This helps promote open communication between the parent facing substance abuse problems and their child.

After Inpatient Rehabilitation

Remember, just because an inpatient rehabilitation stay has been completed does not mean things will just go back to ‘normal.’ 

Recovery is a process that continues even after leaving the rehabilitation center. Parents should be aware that once leaving rehab, they will again be exposed to various triggers that they experienced before entering rehab. 

Learning to cope with cravings and triggers can take some time, so parents should try not to rush things in their recovery. 

Avoiding Relapse 

Relapses are also an aspect of recovery. In the event of a relapse, it is essential to remember the things taught in rehab and try again.

The relationship between parent and child is bound to change some after the parent attends rehabilitation. The child may have feelings of confusion, anger, and even distrust towards the parent. 

After leaving rehab, there will be a period where children have to process those emotions with their parent and get to know their parent again, as they may seem like a completely new person after rehab.

Continuing Therapy

It is wise for both parents and children to continue attending therapy after the parent returns from inpatient rehabilitation. Family counseling may also be a good idea to promote communication between parent and child.

Older children, of course, have more of an understanding of what is going on and why. This means they can be more involved in their parents’ recovery. 

This includes both individual and family therapy, attending and participating in support group meetings with their parents, and receiving education on how they can support their parents during recovery and avoid being an enabling influence on their parent.

Don’t Force Children to Participate 

The involvement of a child in a parent’s recovery should never be forced. This can have the opposite effect of the one intended, resulting in parents pushing their children further and further away. 

Involvement should always be an open door, and there should always be open communication lines between parent and child throughout the recovery process.

Why Attending Inpatient Rehab is Best for Both Parents and Children

Whether for drug or alcohol addiction abuse issues, attending an inpatient rehabilitation program can be frightening as a parent. 

Not only do parents have to accept the fact that they need time to focus on themselves, but they also have to accept not being their child’s primary caregiver for a while. 

The first obstacle for parents to tackle when thinking about attending an inpatient rehab is finding someone to care for their child while they are away. 

There are various ways to ensure a child is cared for while their parent is attending rehabilitation. Once custody is determined, parents can complete their rehabilitation stay, focusing solely on themselves and their illness. 

After completing a rehabilitation program, reconciliation between the parent and child may begin. It is vital to give this process time, as it may take a while for the child to trust their parent again. 

Still, reconciliation and creating a healthy parent-child relationship is much more realistic after the parent has attended rehab and addressed their substance abuse issues.

Alok Krishna Md Medical Review E1609434241710
Medically reviewed by
Alok Krishna, MD

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Is an accredited drug and alcohol rehabilitation program, that believes addiction treatment should not just address “how to stay sober” but needs to transform the life of the addict and empower him or her to create a more meaningful and positive life. We are dedicated to transforming the despair of addiction into a purposeful life of confidence, self-respect and happiness. We want to give recovering addicts the tools to return to the outside world completely substance-free and successful.
elevate addiction services logo
Is an accredited drug and alcohol rehabilitation program, that believes addiction treatment should not just address “how to stay sober” but needs to transform the life of the addict and empower him or her to create a more meaningful and positive life. We are dedicated to transforming the despair of addiction into a purposeful life of confidence, self-respect and happiness. We want to give recovering addicts the tools to return to the outside world completely substance-free and successful.