B.C. Representative for Children and Youth Jennifer Charlesworth. (Black Press files)

B.C. Representative for Children and Youth Jennifer Charlesworth. (Black Press files)

Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder gets ‘meagre’ support compared to other conditions: B.C. report

Children should be assessed on their needs, not their diagnoses

Children and teens with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder need to be included in the Ministry of Children and Family Development program that helps support youth with special needs, according to a report released Thursday (April 15) by by the Representative for Children and Youth.

Representative Jennifer Charlesworth said that fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) “is a long life disability that is often misunderstood,” and often comes with stigma attached.

Charlesworth said that in the making of the report, her office worked to avoid “false framing that it’s an Indigenous problem and that it’s 100 per cent preventable.”

The disorder is neither linked to any specific demographics “nor is it necessarily the result of a women intentionally consuming alcohol while she is pregnant.” The report pointed to both trauma and consuming alcohol before a pregnancy is known as potential reasons why children may end up with FASD.

The office said that youth with FASD must gain access to the Ministry of Children and Family Development’s Family Support Services for Children and Youth with Special Needs.

Charlesworth said her office heard from multiple families that their children with FASD were unable to qualify for the same support as children with similar needs.

“Families with FASD often struggle to get any tangible help,” she said.

Children and families with FASD, Charlesworth said, should be assessed for support based on their functional needs and not on their diagnosis.

Myles Himmelreich, co-lead researcher of the report, said that four per cent of Canadians may have the disorder. Himmelreich has FASD and 15 years of experience working in the field.

“When we’re focusing on how to make FASD go away or stop… we’re not focusing on the needs of people with FASD,” he said. Himmelreich said that discrimination against people with FASD shows in their struggle to get a diagnosis, society’s judgement about their potential and stigma towards mothers.

“The lack of correct information is what’s lead to years of pain,” he said.

Himmelreich said that he was removed from his mother’s care five times before the age of three, instead of the authorities empowering woman to care for their babies

“How was I ever to connect or have a sense of belonging?” Himmelreich asked. His mother, he added, drank during her pregnancy but noted that the shame she was made to feel helped neither her nor her child.

Mitzi Dean, Minister of Children and Family Development, said the province was “committed to changing” the stigma that surrounds FASD.

The report made a total of 11 recommendations:

  • Youth with FASD must gain access to the Ministry of Children and Family Development’s Family Support Services for Children and Youth with Special Needs.
  • MCFD to secure immediate funding enhancements and begin implementation of the expanded eligibility criteria by Sept. 30, 2021.
  • MCFD to take immediate action to ensure equitability and accessibility of the Key Worker Parent Support Program by Sept. 30, 2021 and complete the best practice review by March 30, 2022.
  • Conduct a evidence-based, culturally attuned review of existing FASD awareness training and the training needs of all front-line staff working with children and youth with FASD.
  • Review, and develop and implement a plan, to provide effective and accessible mental health services for children and youth with special needs, including FASD.
  • Reduce wait times for complex developmental behavioural conditions (CDBC) diagnostic clinics; nine months by March 31, 2022; to six months by March 31, 2023; to three months by March 31, 2024.
  • Apply learnings from the review of systemic bias to referral pathways and assessment processes for CDBC diagnostic clinics.
  • Conduct an assessment of existing FASD awareness training and the training needs of appropriate front-line staff working with children and youth with FASD.
  • Cross-ministry plan to collect high-quality demographic and service data that allows for disaggregation, providing an essential foundation for more effective policy development.
  • Ministry of Education update its Inclusive Education Policy and supporting documents and incorporate information to increase awareness and understanding of the specific learning needs of children and youth with FASD.
  • Ministry of Education work with the British Columbia Council for Administrators for Inclusive Supports in Education (BC CAISE) to support staff training and development needs for educators and school staff who work with children and youth with FASD or suspected FASD.

@katslepian

katya.slepian@bpdigital.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

British Columbia

Just Posted

Ancient Forest Alliance campaigner Andrea Inness walks beside an enormous western red cedar stump in a BCTS-issued cutblock in the Nahmint Valley. (PHOTO COURTESY TJ WATT)
Watchdog: logging practices put Vancouver Island old growth, biodiversity at risk

Forest Practices Board has issues with BC Timber Sales practices in Nahmint Valley near Port Alberni

The mighty Fraser during freshet on May 2, 2021 at Island 22 Regional Park. A new B.C. coalition representing 25 organizations, and 273,000 people, is calling on B.C. to reverse decades of wildlife and habitat declines. (Jennifer Feinberg/ The Chilliwack Progress)
Coalition calls on B.C. to invest in wildlife stewardship and habitat protection

Representing 25 organizations, and 273,000 people, they seek to reverse decades of declines

Terry Driver as he looked around the time of the killing of Tanya Smith and the attempted murder of Misty Cockerill in Abbotsford in October 1995. No current photos are available of Driver.
‘Abbotsford Killer’ Terry Driver denied parole, deemed ‘high risk’ to re-offend

Driver murdered Tanya Smith, 16, and seriously injured Misty Cockerill, 15, in 1995

Boats in the Fraser River launched from Barrowtown and Ft. Langley on May 12 to search for the missing fisherman. (Steve Simpson)
Boats search the Fraser River for missing Abbotsford fisherman

Anyone with ‘a boat, time, or a drone’ to help bring Damian Dutrisac home was asked to help

Mina Shahsavar is a fourth-year student in the bachelor of science in nursing program at University of the Fraser Valley and is an employed student nurse at Abbotsford Regional Hospital. (Submitted photo)
Nursing student in Abbotsford plans for career in critical care

Mina Shahsavar inspired during hospital stays as a child

Marc Kielburger, screen left, and Craig Kielburger, screen right, appear as witnesses via video conference during a House of Commons finance committee in the Wellington Building in Ottawa on Tuesday, July 28, 2020. The committee is looking into Government Spending, WE Charity and the Canada Student Service Grant. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
BREAKING: Trudeau didn’t violate conflict rules over WE Charity

Federal ethics commissioner Mario Dion found that former finance minister Bill Morneau did violate the rules

Erik Christian Oun, who worked for the Coquitlam school district, has had his teaching licence suspended for half a year. (Pixabay)
Coquitlam teacher suspended after calling students ’cutie, ‘’sweetheart’ in online messages

Erik Oun’s licence has been suspended for half a year, a decision made by the B.C. Commissioner for Teacher Regulation

An Israeli attack helicopter launches flares as he flies over the Israeli Gaza border, southern Israel, Thursday, May 13, 2021. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)
Singh calls for halt on Canadian arms sales to Israel as violence escalates in region

Government data shows Canada sent $13.7 million in military goods and technology to Israel in 2019

New homes are built in a housing construction development in the west-end of Ottawa on Thursday, May 6, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Budget’s foreign-homebuyers tax could bring in $509 million over 4 years, PBO says

Liberals are proposing a one per cent tax on vacant homes owned by foreign non-residents

A Canadian flag patch is shown on a soldier’s shoulder in Trenton, Ont., on Thursday, Oct. 16, 2014. The Canadian Forces says it has charged one of its members in the death of an army reservist from British Columbia during a training exercise at a military base in Alberta last year. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Lars Hagberg
Canadian Forces member charged in death of army reservist during training exercise

Cpl. Lars Callsen has been charged with one count of negligence

Health Minister Adrian Dix looks during a press conference in the rotunda at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Wednesday May 6, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. to use remaining AstraZeneca vaccine for 2nd doses

Health officials say the change is due to the limited availability of the vaccine

A youth plays basketball in an otherwise quiet court in Toronto on Saturday April 17, 2021. The Canadian Civil Liberties Association is urging the federal and provincial governments to fight COVID-19 pandemic by focusing on proven public health policy interventions including paid sick leave, and education rather than punitive enforcement measures. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young
Provinces issued more COVID-19 tickets during 2nd wave: CCLA report

‘A pandemic is a public health, not a public order, crisis,’ reads the report

Capt. Arpit Mahajan of the Canadian Forces Snowbirds - Snowbirds 2 - shows off his ‘Jenn Book’ dedicated to Capt. Jennifer Casey. Zoom screenshot
Homecoming for B.C.-raised Snowbirds pilot training in the province

Capt. Arpit Mahajan flies Snowbird 2 in his first year as a solo pilot with the team

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Most Read