Couple frustrated by lack of FASD disclosure in adoption aren't alone, Calgary woman says
Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder affects 30% of Alberta children in care
A Calgary woman says she also had problems getting vital health information from Alberta's adoption services about fetal alcohol spectrum disorder.
Susan and Bill Smith, whose real names are being withheld to protect the identity of the children in their care, told CBC News that they didn't find out the two girls they adopted had FASD until after the process was complete.
The story, which was published on Monday, spurred feedback from families who say they've gone through a similar experience.
A Calgary woman, whom CBC has also agreed not to name for privacy reasons, says she started the adoption process for two teenage boys back in 2013.
Like the couple in the original story, she and her husband told social workers they were willing to take on kids with disabilities but were not up to the challenge of teenagers with FASD. She also feels that most of the available health information was not being shared with them.
"I sat with him for two hours every night to try and get him to learn his timetable, which was impossible, and that's when I first started figuring out there were holes in his brain," she said.
The woman said she only got excuses from social workers when she raised the concerns. She was told FASD testing was too expensive, and they couldn't have access to the boys' medical files even if they paid, because they didn't have legal guardianship.
Alberta Human Services says all known health information is shared with adoptive parents.
"They're both falling majorly through the cracks," she said. "I'm trying to help them, and I am doing it as fast as I can, as much as I can, because they were in a normal school — which they shouldn't have been."
She was also not told one of the boys had violent tendencies.
"When I found out he took a knife to somebody else, we slept with the doors locked, our dogs with us, our keys," she said.
"I bought them cellphones, because I wanted them to be, you know, normal and every kid has a cellphone — that is, a teenager — and we took the cellphones in at night, because we couldn't trust them."
She says she finally told social services that she would not sign the final adoption papers unless the boys were assessed for FASD. The children were removed from their home later that day. The boys still text her regularly.
30% of children
Roughly 30 per cent of Alberta children in care have FASD. It's caused when alcohol is consumed during pregnancy and enters the bloodstream of the developing fetus and interferes with development.
"And it is sad, because it is preventable," said Lisa Rogozinsky, the co-ordinator of the Edmonton Fetal Alcohol Network Society.
"No woman drinks because she wants to harm (the) baby," she said. "We need to look at what are the health and social factors that may be contributing to her continued alcohol use and let's put supports in place."
Those with the disorder suffer varying degrees of permanent brain damage. Typically, they will have lower IQs, poor social skills, memory problems, physical challenges and even violent behaviour.
"And because it is a spectrum and no two children show the same symptoms, there's no one recipe for success," said Rogozinsky. "So it's a lot of trial and error."