Social Service :: Interventions
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Effective interventions are based on understanding how prenatal alcohol exposure affects a person cognitively, behaviorally, and physically. If you haven't already done so, we suggest reading these pages.

What does that mean in practical terms?

For the Children

A child with FASD has a complex set of organic, behavioral and cognitive problems due to brain damage from fetal alcohol exposure. The resulting developmental and learning disabilities affect every aspect of the child’s life—as well as the lives of his or her caregivers.

Children with FASD typically need a wide variety of services. Click on each of these to see a description:

For the Primary Caregivers (typically foster or adoptive parents or a relative)

Parenting a child with FASD is an extremely challenging 24/7 job. The child simply can’t be entrusted to a babysitter without special training—because he/she needs constant supervision and special attention. Neurological overloads can make the child behave in unpredictable ways. This doesn’t reflect poor parenting; it reflects faulty “internal wiring” from alcohol damage to the brain. Services that parents need most are

  • qualified respite care
  • family counseling
  • financial assistance with medical bills
  • community advocacy and assistance in securing special services for their child
  • options for residential placement services, for adults who need a supervised environment in which to live for an indefinite time
  • advice on establishing a trust fund for the child or adult when the parents or caregivers are no longer capable of providing care or oversight for the person.

FASD and Your Child: Cause, Effects and Interventions includes footage of psychologists, special education teachers and others discussing interventions that they use frequently.

For the Birth Mothers

Statistically, it’s likely that the birth mother either has FASD, undiagnosed mental health problems, or both. If the birth mother has signs of possible FASD, then consider the following likelihoods as you work with the birth mother:

  • The birth mother may be in jeopardy of losing subsidized housing, TANF or other services because she appears to be unresponsive to pressure regarding holding a job, paying rent, and other basic needs. FASD affects people’s abilities to plan ahead, set goals and learn from their mistakes. Mothers who have FASD do not benefit from simple reminders. They need behavior modification, but not in the traditional sense. See the Interventions page in the Parents' section for effective strategies.
  • The birth mother needs help for her drinking habits.
  • Her drinking may be how she dulls other problems—such as an undiagnosed mental health condition (true in the vast majority of all cases). Your intake process should include screenings for this.
  • The birth mother may be incapable of making sound decisions about her child’s welfare, regardless of what parenting or life skills classes she may attend. This is not a failure of the class; it is organic failure of her brain to incorporate the information and learn from it.
  • Women need wraparound services that start with preconception counseling.

Typical Profile of Birth Parents who Bear a Child with FASD

There’s a phenotype (set of characteristics) of mothers who drink during pregnancy:

  • average age is late 20s
  • often don’t finish high school
  • have been drinking for 10 or more years
  • 2/3 are unmarried
  • almost 3/4 are minorities
  • often also smoke and/or use other drugs
  • often have mental health problems (masked by alcohol/drug use)
  • poor diet
  • poor prenatal care (1 – 3 visits)
  • have higher mortality than mothers of same age who don’t drink

Similar demographics apply to the biological father in terms of age, educational level, and drinking habits.

A birth mother doesn’t just harm her baby by drinking during pregnancy. Drinking also shortens her life expectancy. Statistically, 27% of these biological mothers will be dead within 10 years of having a child with FASD.

The success of any public health program is its ability to decrease the prevalence of a problem. Decreasing the occurrence of FASD requires a multifront effort across generations.

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