Seal of Dane County County of Dane
County Executive's Office

There’s no shame in being the child of an alcoholic

March 18, 2002
David W. Carlson, (608) 242-6424 Topf Wells, (608) 266-9069

Madison, WI (March 18, 2002) – Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk today announced a new campaign aimed at reaching out to thousands of local kids who live with a parent who abuses alcohol or other drugs. “Children of alcoholics and substance abusers require specific attention and assistance to understand what is happening in their families and to believe it is not their fault,” said County Executive Kathleen Falk. “Connecting children of alcoholics or drug users with resources is critical to helping them help themselves.” Adult alcoholism and drug abuse cloud the lives of over 11 million youth nationwide and more than 11,000 children under the age of 18 in Dane County. These resources exist in Dane County, and a new campaign seeks to make people more aware of where to turn when they need to talk with someone who understands their situation and learn ways to make things better for themselves. The No Shame campaign connects young people who are concerned about their parents’ drinking or drug use with First Call For Help, which is a confidential 24-hour telephone helpline operated by United Way of Dane County. Posters will be distributed through schools, youth centers and faith organizations encouraging children to call the helpline or log on to <>. The Web site contains information to help children of alcoholics take control or be educated through links to various online resources. Billboards will also be posted throughout Dane County raising awareness of both youth and adults. Research shows that denial, and the reluctance of families to talk about these problems often make it tough for children to cope with these issues. Consequently, children of alcoholics or drug abusers don’t always understand what is happening. Some believe it is their fault. Some live in fear. Most feel confused or ashamed. These feelings may stay with a child long after they’ve left the home and may lead to other problems for the child later in life. “The campaign is geared toward children under 18, but it also strikes a chord with adults,” noted Falk. “Alcoholism and drug addiction are diseases. We all need to help children recognize this fact and understand that while they don’t have the power to cure their parents, they can help themselves.” “The one thing we can do for these kids is to be there for them, to give them the support they need to take control of their lives and deal with the problems they are facing,” said Orville Dean, a nationally recognized expert on the issue. Dean was in Madison today leading a training seminar for AODA counselors, school personnel, faith leaders, social workers and others who interact with Dane County youth. The seminar was part of the campaign, as a means of emphasizing the unique needs of this population and preparing a cadre of adult role models and mentors who could show they care about these children and help them develop healthy relationships with other people. “Children raised in alcoholic or drug-abusing families have different life experiences,” said Dean. “Often, their cognitive and developmental skills suffer. They need help developing strong social skills and coping strategies, and more often than not, this help must come from outside the family.” Information and resources are available on-line at
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