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

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A memorial to former Abbotsford and RCMP police officer Shinder Kirk in Cedar, B.C. Kirk died in a car accident on Cedar Road in December 2018. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
Trial begins in Nanaimo for man involved in car crash that killed retired police sergeant

RCMP accident reconstructionist takes stand in trial of Conrad Nikolaus Wetten

Next week Nanaimo singer Laura Kelsey is releasing her new single A Foolish Thing and its accompanying music video. (Video still courtesy Greg Nuspel)
Nanaimo singer joined by wolf, dancers in new music video

‘A Foolish Thing’ is Laura Kelsey’s first professionally made single in seven years

B.C. Minister of Mental Health and Addictions Sheila Malcolmson announces an app that is intended to connect children and youths with mental health and addictions services. (B.C. Government image/Flickr)
5 years in the making: Mental health app for youths launches in B.C.

The province provided $1.6 million to fund virtual care platform

Two semi trucks collided on the Nanaimo Parkway just north of Northfield Road on Wednesday morning, May 5. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
UPDATE: Semi truck driver now in stable condition following this week’s crash on Nanaimo Parkway

RCMP repeat call for any dashcam footage around 7:40 a.m. on Wednesday, May 5

Phone companies have the expertise to be able to address the problem of phone scams, says letter writer. (Stock photo)
LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Phone companies should crack down on scammers

It’s time for these companies to be held accountable, says letter writer

B.C. Minister of Mental Health and Addictions Sheila Malcolmson announces an app that is intended to connect children and youths with mental health and addictions services. (B.C. Government image/Flickr)
5 years in the making: Mental health app for youths launches in B.C.

The province provided $1.6 million to fund virtual care platform

A sign indicating face coverings are required by the establishment is pictured on the front door of a business in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, April 9, 2021. COVID-19 cases have been on a steady increase in the province of British Columbia over the past week. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
A sign indicating face coverings are required by the establishment is pictured on the front door of a business in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, April 9, 2021. COVID-19 cases have been on a steady increase in the province of British Columbia over the past week. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. to start releasing neighbourhood-specific COVID numbers after data leak

Documents obtained by the Vancouver Sun show cases broken down by neighbourhoods

Ladysmith RCMP safely escorted the black bear to the woods near Ladysmith Cemetary. (Town of Ladysmith/Facebook photo)
Black bear tranquillized, relocated after wandering around residential Ladysmith

A juvenile black bear was spotted near 2nd Avenue earlier Friday morning

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix update B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature, April 29, 2021. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 case count creeps up, seven more deaths

445 people in hospital, 157 in intensive care

Summerland’s positive test rate is much higher than surrounding local health areas, according to internal BC CDC documents. (BC CDC)
Summerland 3rd behind Surrey, Abbotsford in daily per capita COVID-19 cases

Interior Health is rolling out additional vaccine availability to the community

Amazon is pausing its Prime Day marketing event in Canada this year amid ongoing COVID-19 outbreaks at its facilities in Ontario. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Amazon Prime Day halted in Canada due to COVID-19 outbreaks in warehouses

The event was postponed to protect the health and safety of employees and customers, the company says

Ally Thomas, 12, seen in an undated family handout photo, died on April 14 from a suspected overdose. Her family says they are frustrated more public supports weren't available when they tried to get her help. THE CANADIAN PRESS
Minister says suspected overdose death of 12-year-old pushing B.C. to ‘do better’

Minister Sheila Malcolmson of Mental Health and Addictions says the government is working ‘as hard as we can’ to build a system of care for youths

At this Highway 3 check point, police officers will be asking for identification from drivers, documentation regarding the driver’s name and address, and the purpose for the driver’s travel. (RCMP)
No fines handed out at 1st COVID-19 roadblock as checks move across B.C.

Cpl. Chris Manseau says a total of 127 vehicles were stopped at a roadblock in the Manning Park area

A spectator looks on as the Olympic Caldron is relit in downtown Vancouver, Wednesday, February 12, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Small majority of B.C. residents in favour of a Vancouver 2030 Olympic bid: survey

A new survey shows a split over the possibility of public money being spent to organize and host the winter games

Most Read