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Last Updated: Tuesday June 29 2010 13:58 GMT

Helping children with alcoholic parents: Barnardo's project

A group of children

Ava helps children whose parents have alcohol and drug problems.

She works for a Barnardo's project called Time For Me.

Newsround chatted to Ava about the work they do there.

What sort of things are the children at Time for Me going through?

The children who come to us are often having issues coping with people drinking at home, or with taking drugs. It could be their mum, dad, grandparents or older siblings. They come to us with questions, concerns, worries and fears.

How can this affect them?

They might be worried about what's going on at home. They might even be the carer at home. They might be looking after their mum, or younger brothers and sisters. They might not be getting enough to eat. Or they might have the carer worries - they wonder what's going to happen to their mum or dad if they're not there? Sometimes there is domestic abuse in the home.

How does it affect them at school?

Often these children are struggling at school. It affects their concentration and they could be failing in school. Getting to school could be a problem, or they might not have had any breakfast. They might be worried about what's going on at home.

There might be no money for washing powder. They may not have a washing machine. If a child does not wash, the other children notice. There might be a smell from them, and they get called names. Other children keep away from them. Or the other children might say things like 'your mum's an alki' or 'your dad's a druggie'.

They often won't have the right clothes for school. They can't take people home because they don't know what they will find there. They can be very isolated.

We ask the teachers to look out for this sort of thing. There are tell-tale signs that something is not right.

How does Time For Me help them?

At Time For Me they realise they are not alone. They find out that other children are going through exactly the same thing as them. When they realise that, it makes things a little bit better for them.

We give them the chance to talk about anything that's worrying them. And it's all confidential. Here they can cry, shout, scream or get angry. We provide a safe environment for them to do that.

What sort of activities do you do together?

We provide fun here too. We make cakes, and we do arts and crafts. The children can run around and have fun. We go bowling, or to the park, or have a picnic. We take them on trips and holidays. We try to make sure that in the holidays, each child gets out at least once every week.

Some of these children have never been anywhere. Sometimes we'll have a 13-year-old who has never seen the sea or been to a beach before. We tell them it's OK to be happy, you don't have to feel guilty. Just be young and have fun.

We also teach the children things like first aid, fire safety in the home and how to keep themselves safe. We teach them what they need to do in an emergency.

Do the children help each other?

The group of children are really supportive of each other. If someone comes in feeling down, the others will pick up on it and put their arms around them and try to lift them a bit.

What happens when they get to 14 and they have to leave?

We see children from 8 to 13 years old. Over the six years, we see them grow and develop and often turn out to be stable and healthy young people. Many of them don't want to leave.

Some of the older children come back to us as volunteers. Some of the young ones we have now are already saying they want to come back when they're older as volunteers.

Does Time For Me work?

Yes. Schools have told us that the work we do here does help. We are often told that the children's behaviour and work in school has improved after they come to us.

At Time for Me, and on the holidays we go on, they also learn how to work together, and how to support each other. It's fantastic to see.

When they come to us, they are so angry and wound up. We help them cope with that anger.

These children often think it's their fault that their parents are drinking. But it's nothing to do with them. That's a really important lesson to learn.


Here are details of all the Barnardo's groups that help children whose parents are addicted to alcohol or drugs:

Carmarthenshire Young Carers (for children in Carmarthenshire, Wales)

Contact: 01554 775 232

Time For Me (for children in West Midlands)

Contact: 01384 411722

Merthyr Young Carers Service (for children in Merthyr, Wales)

Contact: 01685 382 422.

Flintshire Services, Barnardo's Cymru, (for children in Flintshire, Wales)

Contact: 01244 551246

Pharos (for children in Belfast, Northern Ireland)

Contact: 028 9064 4335

Action for Young Carers project (for children in Liverpool)

Contact: 0151 708 7323