FASD and Child Welfare

CanFASD recently release a new issue paper exploring Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) and child welfare in Canada. Below is a short summary of this paper.

Issue

In Canada, individuals with FASD are overrepresented in the child welfare system. Conservative estimates suggest that the prevalence rates for children in care are at minimum 3-11%. This number is expected to be higher because of the lack of formal diagnosis of FASD for children in care. These youth represent a particularly vulnerable populations that often experience a greater rate of poor outcomes, including mental health issues, lower educational attainment, abuse, neglect, unhousing, and drug and alcohol use.

Social workers and social service providers encounter FASD on a regular basis and must be knowledgeable about this disability in order to improve outcomes. However, limited research suggests that individuals working in this profession do not have a strong understanding of FASD.

Background

Children with disabilities are at a greater risk of maltreatment and neglect than children without, and researchers have suggested that children with behavioural disorders, such as FASD, face the greatest risk (i.e., 7 times that of the general population). Children and youth with FASD have specific vulnerabilities that put them at a greater risk for poor outcomes.

There is no national policy or framework to support children with disabilities in child welfare. The services that are provided are dependent on the policies of each province and territory.

There are four key areas of focus when discussing FASD and child welfare in Canada:

Diagnosis

  • Early FASD diagnosis is a critical first step to support and improve outcomes for individuals with FASD and their families. Social service providers should be familiar with FASD and the Canadian diagnostic guideline in order to effectively screen for this disability as a part of their case assessment;
  • Children in care with FASD who are placed into stable home environments early on experience better outcomes than those who remain in the child-care system until later in life.

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