Kids Power gives hope for children of addiction

Carly Conn and her brother take part in Kids Power, a youth group for kids who have a family member dealing with addiction (NTV News)

They may be trapped by choices their parents have made, but children of addiction can find hope for a better future.

“Felt like I was the only one. Felt like I was alone.”

Carly Conn couldn’t escape, even in the one place that should be safe to be a kid.

“In school no one understood me and I was bullied because I was always upset, always in the office. Other kids didn't understand why. I was picked on and bullied and made fun of for that,” the 13-year-old said.

Her mom is an addict, and her grandma is a recovering alcoholic.

Grandmother's addiction

Theresa Arita said, “The drinking started back in '92. Since then I've been having a struggle with alcohol.”

Theresa Arita's life came crashing down 25 years ago, when her daughter Brooke was killed in a truck-pedestrian crash.

Arita says drinking cost her jobs and relationships.

She recently would have celebrated five years of sobriety, but relapsed. Theresa says addiction runs in the family.

“Myself, my daughter got into her addiction. Then my grandson and his addiction. And they're all sober today,” she said.

As Theresa sat with three of her grandkids, she explained their mom began using drugs, unleashing a torrent of emotions for 13-year-old Carly.

“Worried and mad, really made at my mom. And she gave away my sister to her dad and that was hard,” she explained.

“It was a tough time,” Arita said. “They thought it was their fault, that their mother didn't care for them.”

Breaking the Cycle

Children of addicts are far more likely to get ensnared themselves. Louise Dexter, a program assistant at the Central Nebraska Council on Alcoholism and Addictions said she has seen families with generations of drug and alcohol abuse.

“They are more at risk,” Dexter said. “If they have alcoholism or drug addiction in their family, they have more risk because there is genetics involved.”

Theresa knew their family needed help.

“I wanted to break the cycle. That's why I reached out to the Kids Power. Wanted them to understand about their parents' addiction, their grandmother's addiction and alcoholism, so they don't have to go through it. So they can learn to be better kids to help them understand our alcoholism or addiction,” she said.

Kids Power is a youth group for children affected by a loved one's addiction.

Louise Dexter said, “They learn it's not their fault. They learn they are not alone.”

They bond over pizza, as kids get together.

Carly said, “Before I came to the program, I felt like I was the only one. I was the other one. I felt like I was alone. But when I came into the program, I realized there are more kids like me who are struggling.”

Learning from kids like Erik Chavez.

“To be a role model for kids, to show them that if you stay on the right path you can be successful. You don't need to fall into peer pressure to be cool,” he said.

Sponsor a Child

The Central Nebraska Council on Alcoholism and Addictions operates on a shoestring budget, relying on grants and donations.

“It does cost money to have these programs,” Louise Dexter of CNCAA said.

And the families who receive services often have nothing.

CNCAA is asking community members to sponsor a child, with a $500 donation to keep the program going strong.

Dexter said it’s important to invest in these young people, to give them a better future.

“Because the community is only as strong as its weakest link, and if we don't make these children stronger and break that cycle, it's going to continue,” she said.

In some cases, addiction costs kids their parents.

“Some of them end up in jail or prison,” Dexter said. “But with treatment and recovery, they can have that parent back in the home. They can have hope. Kids Power gives them hope.”

Now Carly goes to middle school with dreams of being the first in her family to graduate from college.

“That's the main thing. I want to work in the medical field. I want to do something with medicine, helping people,” she said.

And while her classmates complain about their parents being too busy, Carly can only dream of a mom who works enough hours to pay the bills, but she has hope.

“She will, she'll overcome her issues and get on track again. I know she will,” she said.

The council also has an intervention program for families desperate to get help for a loved one.

Learn more at or call (308) 385-5520 to learn how to sponsor a child.

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