The 10 Commandments of Working with Youth Impacted by Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders

According to the Center for Disease Control, Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) impact between 2 to 5 percent of the general population in the United States. When working with children who have come from homes where parents abuse alcohol and other drugs, the prevalence rates are going to be significantly higher.

This issue is being taken seriously by two senators who are proposing funding to help study the impacts of FASD. Presidential hopeful Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) introduced the Advancing FASD Research, Prevention and Services Act that would amend the Public Health Service Act to include $42 million for research and services grants focused on Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD).

In the meantime, many professionals working in the field of child protection and foster care receive minimal training on how to identify individuals impacted and even less training on how to support individuals who are impacted.

Here are a few tips for foster parents and others working with children who might be impacted by FASD.

1. Always screen for prenatal alcohol exposure. At any point in the pregnancy, alcohol can impact developing cells. Alcohol is a teratogen, meaning that it alters and/or kills developing cells. Many providers do not do an adequate job of screening for alcohol because they simply ask the mother, “did you drink alcohol during your pregnancy?” A mother may answer “no” for a variety of reasons when in fact there was prenatal alcohol exposure. As foster parents, as you have the opportunity to get to know the parents and build rapport with them, you can ask the following questions to get to the truth of whether there was prenatal alcohol exposure. Asking the mother and father regarding their lives during the year they were pregnant will provide a fuller picture of what substance use was occurring around the time of conception and during the pregnancy. (Read more…)