Supports for women with FASD who are parenting

Adult women with FASD often come into contact with child welfare over concerns about their parenting abilities. Referrals to child welfare come from the variety of sources, including the community, health professionals, and schools.
Rutman and Van Bibber (2010) in their article Parenting with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder in the International Journal of Mental Health Addiction identified specific issues of parents in these circumstances. Through a qualitative study on this topic the authors identified hopes and goals for parenting, accomplishments and strategies as well as challenges, including societal perspective on the capacity and ability.
It is evident that from strength-based perspective there is indeed awareness of challenges faced by mothers as they grew up and the desire to break the cycle. As well, instrumental ideas such as calendars, planning and routine were highlighted as helpful.
From the perspective of challenges, it is clear that the participants in this research had faced their own challenges in child welfare and multiple barriers in their role as parents. The writers indicate that women in these communities are often fearful seeking help due to perceived concerns of child apprehension. The writers raise a critical constructs in the need to both understand the complexity of FASD and its cognitive affects, as well as the need to think differently about women parenting their children and how best to provide support. There is a need to advocate for strength of parents, appreciate differing individual needs, capacities, supports required and cultural context.
It is clear that a strong support network needs to be in place for parents themselves who have FASD. What types of supports or interventions might be helpful in working with parents in these circumstances? What needs to be considered? How might an outcome of positive parenting be achieved?    


One of the most effective strategies I have seen is that of using the extended family model to support ( or at times even replace) some specific parenting jobs so that the woman with FASD can do the parts of parenting that she truly can carry out successfully and the other family members help her to do some of the rest or at times do the rest for her so that the family unit remains safe, intact and not too stressed within the context of the extended family. This of course can only happen when FASD can be understood by all family members and accepted as a permanent brain injury and all of the family members receive training and extra supports to do this work. I love this strategy because it reduces the likelihood of even short term removal of the children from their family.   Judy

First I would like to make the following general comments.
FASD is truly a spectrum, consequently those with this
condition vary in their abilities. A majority have normal or
higher than normal intelligence. Many of those with FASD are
capable of parenting, with various degrees of support.

In custody cases it is important to see the FASD parent as an
individual. Their history of the secondary disabilities of FASD
should be examined- did they graduate from high school, have
they had problems with the law, have they had drug or alcohol
issues, have they maintained employment and finally what is
their relationship history, especially with their children and
other family members?

It is important to establish to what extent the FASD individual is
prepared to accept help when they need it, according to any
disabilities they may have.

There are many parents who are not FASD who, for
psychological reasons relating to their own childhood, are very
poor parents. In comparison some FASD parents would provide
more appropriate parenting.

It is my opinion that a diagnosis of FASD should not be of its self
a reason for removing a child from its mother.

Unfortunately it does seem that increasingly the diagnosis of
FASD is being used as sufficient reason for removing the infant
from the mother.

There are no studies etc regarding the criteria for assessing the
parenting capacity of those with FASD, that I am aware of. It is
my observation however that certain criteria need to be in

1- The parent needs to perseverate on the needs of her child.
This can be the focus around which, with help, she can extend
her abilities and considerations.

2- The parent needs to accept that she has disabilities.

3- The parent needs to understand that she needs help, request
it and accept it.

4- The parent and child require a positive environment.

Of course knowledge of the cognitive and information processing
abilities and disabilities of the parent are required.

A Neuropsychological Assessment would be preferred to obtain
a full appreciation of the strengths and weaknesses of the
parent or child with FASD. 

Barry Stanley