A foster mother in Thunder Bay says the community desperately needs more services for people suffering from fetal alcohol spectrum disorder.
She's one of dozens of people who are expected to attend a workshop Wednesday to talk about the issue.
Marilyn Leiterman has been raising a child suffering from the disorder since he was a baby. The boy is now nine years old. She said she worries about the kind of life he'll have as an adult.
"I've been working on his future from Day 1," she said.
"I am advocating for assisted living. To date, there is nothing specific to FASD for assisted living. I am looking for different school programs. They need to learn hands-on skills. They need more help and support."
Leiterman, who works as a FASD educator, said many Thunder Bay children, teens and adults are struggling with the condition.
It's a reality that motivated Rotary Club members in Thunder Bay and Nipigon to sponsor the FASD workshop.
Looking at prevention
Occupational therapist Justine Bertrand, who helped organize the event, said people suffering from FASD often end up in trouble with the law.
"[Their] judgment ... problem-solving ability, foresight … goes out the window," Bertrand said. "These guys will commit the same offence, over and over and over again, despite the consequence."
Bertrand said she hopes the workshop will inspire community members to start a local chapter of Healthy Brains for Children, a non-profit organization dedicated to FASD prevention.
While prevention will be one focus of the workshop, Leiterman said she plans to ask the health and education ministries to dedicate more money to FASD services.
She said schools need more support to help kids with the disorder learn, and adults need specialized job and housing programs so they can live independently.
Leiterman already had two children of her own when she took her foster son as a two-month baby. She wanted to learn how to help him so much that she went to college to become an FASD educator.
Nine years later, she said she still worries about the lack of services for her son as he grows up.
"I get people approaching me with teens [and adults]," Leiterman said. "I have nowhere … to send them."