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Out-of-home Carers and Providers

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The invisible disability you may see every day

Supporting children and young people in out-of-home care

People involved in out-of-home care play an important role in recognising and supporting the needs of children and young people with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD). When FASD goes unrecognised, children and young people can be left without the right support, misunderstood, or even blamed for behaviours caused by their disability. 

Accurate and timely diagnosis of FASD allows appropriate supports to be put in place. This helps establish successful placements and allows foster carers, guardians, or adoptive parents to be better equipped and informed to meet the needs of the child or young person in their care. 

What is FASD? 

FASD is a lifelong disability caused by exposure to alcohol before birth. It presents differently for each person, but potential signs of FASD can include: 

  • Developmental delay 
  • Sleep disorders 
  • Difficulty regulating emotions 
  • Impulsive or risk-taking behaviours 
  • Challenges understanding and learning from  
  • past mistakes or consequences 
  • Difficulty making and keeping friends 
  • Poor memory 

What you can do to help  

If you think a child or young person in your care may have FASD, you can ask for a referral to a paediatrician and/or FASD-informed health care provider to seek an assessment and diagnosis.  

When children and young people enter out-of-home care, approach any behaviour or difficulties with a FASD-informed lens. This means:  

  • Consider whether substance misuse was a reason for placement. 
  • Seek a FASD assessment and diagnosis if there are concerns. 

If a child or young person in your care has FASD, they may need specific support that considers their individual behaviours and strengths. Work with FASD-informed organisations and health care providers to develop strategies, and make sure other people who are involved with the child or young person are also FASD-informed. 

Learn more about common behavioural symptoms and signs of FASD by visiting the NOFASD website.  

What women say 

We asked women who have children with FASD to share their thoughts. Here is what they had to say: 

“My child’s symptoms include difficulty with emotional regulation, extreme anxiety, speech issues, sensory issues and both academic and social challenges at school… These symptoms present as behaviours such as yelling, throwing things and shutting down.”

“From the time he wakes to going to bed, our day is planned to provide regulatory activities to manage the triggers that affect his life … everything is about repetition because it can take a long time for the skills to be learned to manage problem behaviour.” 

“Having a FASD diagnosis enabled us to see our son differently, to parent differently, to admire our son for his resilience, tenacity, perseverance, and motivation to continue trying, despite the daily hurdles and challenges he faced.”

Resources

We’ve worked with NOFASD Australia to develop resources about alcohol and pregnancy for Out-of-Home Carers and Providers. 

Pregnant woman at doctor’s office
Happy young woman sitting inside using a laptop computer
Happy young woman using a laptop computer inside

We’d love to hear from you

We are conducting a survey to evaluate these resources and we’d love to hear your views. Let us know what you think and you’ll go in the draw to win one of four $75 e-gift cards.

This study titled Consumer perceptions of alcohol and pregnancy health education materials has been approved by the University of Adelaide’s Human Research Ethics Committee (Approval Number: H-2022-153)

Looking for training?

Update your knowledge and skills with our eLearning course, Supporting alcohol-free pregnancy and safe breastfeeding. It’s free and accredited by the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP), the Australian College of Midwives (ACM), the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RANZCOG) and the Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine (ACRRM).  

This short online course provides information about how to:

  • explain the latest evidence about the risks of alcohol consumption during pregnancy, when trying to conceive and when breastfeeding
  • describe the impact of alcohol at all phases of pregnancy, including the early weeks
  • use the validated AUDIT-C tool for assessing alcohol consumption during pregnancy.
  • provide positive reinforcement, strengths-based brief intervention, or referral, according to the assessed level of risk.
  • confidently provide advice that is consistent with the National Health and Medical Research Council’s (NHMRC) Alcohol Guidelines to reduce health risks from drinking alcohol.

The Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education (FARE) partnered with Medcast and consulted a range of health professionals to produce this evidence-based eLearning course. 

The course contains five modules and three case studies. It is accredited and covers the risks of consuming alcohol during pregnancy, how to talk about drinking alcohol during pregnancy sensitively and effectively, and how to assess this using a prescribed assessment model.

Other activities include:  

  • A summary of evidence on pregnancy and alcohol  
  • Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder  
  • Brief intervention and motivational interviewing  
  • Breastfeeding and alcohol.  

The course takes approximately  60 to 90 minutes to complete.

Healthcare professional touching pregnant woman's abdomen
Pregnant woman at doctor’s office