All in the family

Here’s an innovative approach to help your loved one with addiction

By Ambi Daniel

recovery“My granddaughter has been living with me for almost two years now because of my daughter’s addiction.

“This wasn’t my plan, and I’m not sure how to raise my granddaughter while also letting my daughter be a mother.

“I know I can’t be the only one going through this. Do you have any insight or suggestions to help my family?”

My heart goes out to you and the many families that are dealing with this exact issue.

There are so many challenges that come into play when substance use disorders infiltrate families. Raising a grandchild while being a partner-parent to your own child, and with an extra generation gap, comes with a set of impacts that often has hard-to-find support or direction.

Let’s look at some of the heartbreaking challenges that I hear all too often, and then we can look at resources for families with similar situations.

— I’m a different parent than my son or daughter. I don’t agree with what he or she is doing as a parent.

— When my son or daughter is home, am I supposed to let them parent the way he or she wants?

— My grandchild is confused because he or she does not have consistency between my son or daughter and me as parents.

— Parenting today is different than when I raised my kids.

— If I failed with my own child, should I be raising theirs?

— I have no idea what kids face today with social media, or what their issues are in school.

— Kids today are just different. I don’t know how to parent in today’s world.

— I don’t know how to help my grandkids with their homework.

— I’m too tired for this.

— I’m retired, so how do I support a child financially?

— I was supposed to be retired and enjoying life with my husband or wife.

— I feel like I need to take custody of these kids so they can have a normal life.

It’s a tough list to read, right?

If you’re a grandparent raising a grandchild, reading this list, no matter how it came to be, it’s possible you’ve felt one or more of those things.

If you have, it’s OK to have felt that way.

You’re not alone in feeling it. I genuinely promise you that you are not alone.

Raising children in general can be a daunting task for anyone, no matter how much resiliency he or she has built into their upbringing. With substance use disorders, much of the time, the level of family stress and challenges increase many times over.

Not only are grandparents raising their grandkids, there is the component of helping their own children be OK again. It becomes easy to question what is right or wrong, and how to move forward as a family. Who helps to put those plans in place?

While I’ll touch on other community supports, at the Center for Family Life & Recovery, Inc. in Utica, we do have the ability to create a holistic support system for the whole family through community and family recovery services, mental health and behavioral services, and prevention services.

We do this with our community partners on top of the services provided in our agency.

There is support out there for grandparents and their loved ones, including the kids, especially on a one-on-one level. Boy, they can be tricky to find sometimes, right?

Not only are there individual and family counseling options to help with behavioral issues, mental health issues, and adjusting to ever-changing situations, there are also programs to teach the families, including the kids, some of the “how-to” of family wellness and positive growth.

There are also arenas to just give families an outlet and support with those that are living it, and have been there before.

The biggest gift to recovery is often the family. You, as family members, are an incredible resource with more insight to your loved ones’ behaviors, substance use related or otherwise.


We take that insight and create a map to engage it toward family recovery. The biggest changes in the families I work with come from the classes and one-on-one meetings to learn tools to help their families move forward.

The CRAFT (community reinforcement and family training) method has been implemented in Oneida County through the family support navigation program. It helps families look at their individual situations and tackle their own family needs by teaching family members tools to help move their loved one into recovery, reduce use, and increase family wellness.

I’m proud to share that families who have engaged in this training, created by Robert Meyers, are reporting changes in family interactions, team work, reduction in use, overall decrease in stress, and increase in family wellness in relatively short periods of time.

Safety net available

Family Support Navigation services can also help loved ones access treatment, navigate insurance, and navigate the world of HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) and confidentiality. These FSN services are available to engage families through one-on-one, group, and community connection.

We can work on education and skills for recovery starting as young at age 5. We truly work to engage differently with each other to encourage and support recovery for the whole family to work on family solutions. You, the family members, help results happen. You are that powerful.

As part of the FSN program at CFLR, Inc. we are gearing up to start a new support group just for grandparents.

Our plan is to tackle the unique challenges of raising grandchildren and parent-partnering together.

A clinical counselor facilitates the group, but it will be about supporting and learning from each other. Because of the need we’ve been continuously hearing about, we decided that we needed to create a specific avenue to work together.

We know the impacts can affect a child’s self-esteem, their sleep, and their ability to focus, plan, and organize. A child may also have difficulty making appropriate decisions, building positive relationships, while also battling with social, emotional and behavioral issues.

CFLR, Inc. offers prevention education services directly in schools and outside of schools, not only for the children, but for the whole family unit.

These prevention services are focused on the entire family dynamic to build and strengthen the family unit, build skills, provide tools and resources for lasting impact.

As the only certified prevention provider in Oneida County, CFLR, Inc. has prevention services and programs that help educate and bring awareness on substance use disorder, trauma, self-regulation, and skills to better understand and communicate emotions such as anger, despair and fear.

Prevention education will also help bring perspective to what our children are dealing with today with drug trends, social media, peer pressure and more.

We want to identify and understand risk and protective factors to help guide individualized prevention services that engage health, social, educational and behavioral impacts of substance use.

Community is the key

The goal is to develop a supportive community that enables children, adolescents, young adults, and families to have a healthy environment to thrive and grow.

Helping to bring down natural anger, and the tools to do so, are a common need for families. Parenting and anger management classes are available throughout our community and also at CFLR, Inc.

We believe in an active approach to engaging parents, grandparents and kids in skills and discussion.

Parental aids are available to support parents and families in education and other support on multiple levels. The goal is to meet the needs, not only on a parenting level, but on a holistic stability level, including housing, needed services, and tackling at-risk needs.

When there is a mental health diagnosis with significant behavioral issues or mental health impacts, the Oneida County Department of Mental Health has a “single point of access” team to help connect participants to care managers, structured housing and other needs.  A mental health provider can start this referral if services are appropriate.

There are treatment options for family members through outpatient providers, even if they do not have a substance use disorder themselves. In Oneida County, our outpatient treatment providers offer one-on-one counseling for the family members impacted by substance use disorders. Multiple treatment providers provide family support groups as well.

We also have a Parents of Addicted Loved Ones (PAL) support group locally and an Al-Anon chapter.

In our community and at CFLR, Inc., we have multiple therapists that have a focus on children and trauma. We know the separation of a parent from a child can present emotional and behavioral changes.

Working in counseling can help to stabilize the confusion and provide the structure to move forward in a healthy way.

That’s a daunting list of services, right? Google can be helpful to connect you to them, but even better, I can help you one-on-one with the services you might want for your family, both in our agency and in our community.

We’ll find the best fit for you. FSN services are at no cost to you thanks to OASAS NYS Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services) funding through Oneida County.

For more information, call Ambi Daniel, family support navigator at CFLR, Inc. at 315-768-2665.

• Ambi Daniel is a family support navigator at Center for Family Life and Recovery, Inc., 502 Court St., Suite #401, Utica, N.Y. 13502. For more information, visit