The month of April is full of holidays and national awareness events. Did you know April is also Child Abuse Prevention Month and Alcohol Awareness Month? Many people do not know that there is a strong connection between substance use and child abuse. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, approximately 7.3 million children have lived with a parent who had a substance use disorder or misused alcohol. Alcohol misuse puts a child more at risk for experiencing child abuse, neglect, and involvement with the child welfare system.

Even if you do not think you have a substance misuse problem, making the decision to drink alcohol while taking care of a child can be a form of child neglect. Whether you choose to drink alcohol around your own children or drink alcohol while watching someone else’s child, you are putting yourself and the child at risk. Not only does alcohol impair your judgment, it may also prevent you from being able to protect a child from harm. What if you have been drinking and a child gets hurt? Would you be able to respond to the child’s needs? What if the child has an injury and needs to go to the hospital? Is there an adult who has not been drinking that can drive?

If you choose to drink alcohol, plan ahead. Arrange for appropriate childcare with another adult who is not drinking, make low-risk choices, and do not drive. Be a good role model and remember children learn by example. Protect our children -- Protect What You’ve Earned.

For more information on alcohol and making low-risk choices, contact your local Substance Abuse Counseling Center. For information on parenting and child abuse contact your local Family Advocacy Program.