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All babies count: Spotlight on drugs and alcohol

This is the first in a series of Spotlight papers which build on the findings of the NSPCC report – All Babies Count: Prevention and protection for vulnerable babies which highlighted the pressing need for effective interventions for parents and their babies. The Spotlight papers focus on the specific developmental importance of pregnancy and babyhood, shining a light on a particular issue for families, policy and practice, in this case parental misuse of drugs and alcohol.

All babies need to be safe, nurtured and able to thrive and a growing body of evidence shows that the early care they receive provides the essential foundations for future physical, social and emotional development. Parents who misuse substances need services that can take account of their own difficult life circumstances which often include chaotic childhoods, co-existing psychological problems and social isolation, whilst also providing support for them as parents to ensure that their babies develop to their fullest potential.

Parental substance misuse can harm children’s development both directly – through exposure to substances in utero – and indirectly – through its impact on parenting capacity. This paper covers three areas:

  • INSIGHT: what is known about babies affected by parental substance misuse?
  • INNOVATION: which interventions and services are effective or show promise in helping create a safer and more nurturing environment for infants?
  • IMPACT: what can be done to improve policy in this important area?