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What Is FASD and Why Is It Important to the Department of Human Services?Posted Date: 09/13/2017
By: Paula Mainard, BSW, FASD Program Coordinator
FASD is an acronym for Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders and is the number one cause of intellectual developmental disabilities in the United States.
Bet that got your attention.
Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs) are a group of conditions that can occur in a person whose mother drank alcohol during her pregnancy. Awareness for alcohol-exposed pregnancies is a crisis situation in the state of Arkansas, and prevention education needs to be the priority. Many people are unaware of the dangers to their unborn child and are often advised by their peers that a glass of wine is safe. The CDC states that all types of alcohol are equally harmful, including all wines and beer[ii]. The message we as a Department need to promote is None for Nine (no alcohol for nine months), because this disorder is 100 percent preventable.
Relevance for the Department as a whole is multi-faceted. The impact on long-term community health is substantial, and statistical data shows there is an increased incidence of alcohol exposed pregnancies for the population of clients served by the Division of Children and Family Services (DCFS), Division of Developmental Disabilities Services (DDS), Division of Behavioral Health Services (DBHS), Division of Youth Services (DYS), and the criminal justice system.
This means a large part of the Department’s overall budget is used to house, educate, care for, and feed children and adults who have a 100 percent preventable disorder for which there is no cure, and a grim outlook for success without significant interventions. People affected with FASD are often involved with the justice system due to their impulsive and erratic behaviors. People affected often have receptive language barriers and poor executive functioning that could lead to potential failure to understand what is asked of them in stressful situations, including the ability to follow simple commands.
Many affected individuals have intellectual disabilities, cannot live independently as adults, or suffer from secondary disabilities. Secondary disabilities may occur at any age and include: mental health problems, school failure, trouble with the law resulting in confinement, inappropriate sexual behavior, and alcohol/drug problems. In addition, the chances of dependent living as adults was increased by 80 percent and problems with employment were indicated in 80 percent of adults with FASD[iii].
But there is hope. Public education to reduce the number of alcohol-exposed pregnancies and increase awareness and interventions for children and adults affected by FASD will improve overall outcomes. Connections to services, including early intervention, can improve success in the home and school settings for children, in the community as adults, and decrease the incidence of secondary diagnoses. A stable, non- violent home is crucial to the success of these individuals. It is our duty as an agency to learn more and educate others about this preventable disorder, and to advocate for and provide services for those affected by FASD.
Paula Mainard is the Fetal Alcohol Program Coordinator for the Division of Child and Family Services. She has a background as a field FSW with experience in foster care, protective services, and investigations. She has a Bachelors in Social Work and is the adoptive parent of a child with FASD. She is familiar with navigating the process of obtaining a diagnosis, advocating for educational accommodations, getting connected to appropriate services, and building a support network for those affected. She is passionate about this disorder and prevention efforts to reduce the occurrence of this 100 percent preventable condition.
Texas Department of Family and Protective Services. (n.d.). Texas Adoption Resource Exchange (TARE). Retrieved August 29, 2017, from http://www.dfps.state.tx.us/Adoption_and_Foster_Care/About_Our_Children/Disabilities/fetal_alcohol.asp.
[ii] Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASDs). (2017, June 06). Retrieved August 28, 2017, from https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/fasd/facts.html.
[iii] Secondary Disabilities in FASD. © 2000-2002 Teresa Kellerman. Retrieved August 28, 2017 from http://www.come-over.to/FAS/fasconf.htm.