Children’s, adolescent’s and young people’s happiness, health and well-being are among the most important considerations for families and communities to thrive. Communities often aim to protect these groups since they are more vulnerable to harm. During the pandemic household problems in Latvia have risen, putting children and youth at even greater risk. A major driver of these problems is the products and practices of the alcohol industry.
Latvian social services received more reports about risks of domestic violence in the beginning of 2021 than the end of 2020. In the last quarter of 2020, social services got 275 reports on violence which increased to 374 in the first quarter of 2021. In 87 of the cases in 2021 children were present in the household.
So far in 2021, a total of 531 cases of domestic violence were registered where social workers took action. This included 207 cases involving households with children.
Several related problems are rising in families during the pandemic according to social services. These include use of alcohol and other harmful substances, mental health problems with children and adults, unemployment and violence. They note that households which previously did not face such issues are now reporting these problems during the ongoing coronavirus crisis.
There has been an increased demand for mental health services since the pandemic as well. This need has risen in at-risk households as well as new households. Children have been getting more apathetic and distant from others at home, not responding, getting increasingly depressed and suicidal.
Alcohol is a serious risk factor affecting children’s education, mental and physical health. A recent study published in the journal Nordic Studies on Alcohol and Drugs found that, children with household alcohol problems,
- had a higher risk of failing to attain a secondary education by age 21 years compared with their peers, and
- were more likely to have other problems in their household including higher rates of psychiatric disorders, lower educational levels and more long-term financial difficulties – indicating that these children grow up with fewer resources and exposed to more risk factors.
The researchers of the study emphasize the importance of ensuring quality education for children in households with alcohol problems. Education can improve their long-term outcomes in a multitude of life domains.
A multi-sectoral approach with collaboration between healthcare, social work and education sectors is needed to prioritize advancing education among vulnerable children.
Early identification of household problems by health and social services and offering help to affected children and households is needed to prevent future problems. With proper education, early identification of problems and prevention they can enjoy life as children and have more opportunities as adults.