Can a Parent Lose Custody for Drinking or Drug Use?

Last Updated: April 30, 2024

Receiving addiction treatment can help you better care for your children and regain custody.

Substance use and child custody rights are important topics for parents who struggle with addiction. Many parents wonder whether addiction can lead to children being removed from the home. They may even be afraid to seek help because they worry their children will be taken from them. But help is available. Learn about child custody and substance use to find support during this time. 

Impact of Addiction on Children and Families

Substance use can possibly lead to the loss of child custody, as parental addiction comes with consequences for children. For example, studies with children whose parents are addicted to drugs or alcohol have found the following negative impacts: 

  • Poor attachment between parents and children
  • Poor cognitive development in children 
  • Lower performance on academic achievement tests
  • Problems with emotional regulation
  • Difficulty with tasks requiring attention
  • Inconsistent caregiving
  • Poor social skills
  • Increased risk of mental health problems 

Children require consistent nurturing and stable routines to develop socially, cognitively and emotionally. When a parent is addicted to drugs or alcohol, the family environment can become chaotic and unpredictable, which interferes with child development. 

Child Custody and Drug Use

Given the negative effects of addiction on children and families, it can play a role in child custody decisions. In fact, parental addiction can be so dangerous that it puts children at risk of abuse or neglect. 

According to the National Center on Substance Abuse and Child Welfare, 1/8 of children live in a household where at least one parent has an addiction. These children are at risk of child maltreatment and involvement with the child welfare system. 

Can CPS Take Your Child for Drinking or Drug Use?

It is common for parents with a substance use disorder to wonder whether Child Protective Services (CPS) can take their children. Unfortunately, parents who are addicted to substances may become neglectful toward their children because much of their time and effort is spent using and obtaining drugs or alcohol. 

If parents are so neglectful that they cannot meet their children’s basic needs, or if they are placing their children in danger because of substance misuse, children may be removed. In most cases, child removal is intended to be temporary, and parents are given the opportunity to seek addiction treatment so children can be returned to their care. 

Preparing for Rehab When You Have Kids

If you are a parent living with an addiction, going to rehab can be one of the best choices you make for yourself and your children. Recovering from addiction allows you to be more present with your children and attuned to their needs rather than consumed by the effects of substance misuse. When you’re preparing to go to rehab, it’s important to make arrangements for someone to provide care for your children in your absence, which might include a grandparent, aunt, uncle or close family friend. 

How to Talk to Your Children About Rehab 

When you’re planning to go away to an inpatient rehab program, it’s important to have a discussion with your children so they know what to expect. The conversation may vary depending on the ages of your children, but they will benefit from being told that you’ll be away for a while and that someone will take care of them. 

Older children may understand that you’re going away to rehab, but younger children may simply need to be told that you’re sick and getting medical treatment but that grandma will care for them until you’re feeling better. 

Are There Rehabs Where You Can Take Your Child?

Some rehab programs may allow children to attend the program with their parent, especially if the parent seeking treatment is a new or expecting mother. Orlando Recovery Center is an adults-only facility, so children are not permitted to attend inpatient care with a parent. Check with your specific facility to determine whether they allow children to attend. 

If you’re not able to leave your children in someone else’s care to attend rehab, you may benefit from outpatient treatment. These programs allow you to receive services on-site at a treatment center and then return home each night. 

Best Ways To Regain Custody After Drug or Alcohol Abuse

Regaining custody after drugs is often possible, including in the state of Florida. Laws in all 50 states require CPS to make reasonable efforts to provide families with services to overcome the problems that led to their involvement with the child welfare system. This means that if you complete rehab and are able to care for your children, CPS will make an effort to return your children to your home. 

The best thing you can do to regain custody is seek treatment, provide evidence to CPS and/or the courts that you have complied with treatment recommendations and stay engaged in services, such as support groups and counseling. 

Get Help for Drug and Alcohol Addiction 

Orlando Recovery Center offers a full range of treatment services for parents seeking help for addiction. We offer inpatient rehab, partial hospitalization programming and intensive outpatient services. Entering one of our treatment programs is the first step toward overcoming your addiction so you can be there for your children. Contact a Recovery Advocate today to learn more or begin the admissions process. 


Salo, S., & Flykt, M. “The impact of parental addiction on child development.” American Psychological Association, 2013. Accessed April 16, 2023.

National Center on Substance Abuse and Child Welfare. “Children and Families Affected by Parental Substance Use Disorders (SUDs).” Accessed April 16, 2023.

Gates, David. “Alcohol/Drug Abuse Issues in Child Custody Evaluations.” Handbook of Child Custody, January 2015. Accessed April 16, 2023.

Child Welfare Information Gateway. “Reasonable Efforts to Preserve

or Reunify Families and Achieve Permanency for Children.” September 2019. Accessed April 16, 2023.

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