“Prince George’s County Maryland – An Opportunity for FASD Awareness”

Last summer, local attorney Evan Wilson had a “light bulb moment” during Dr. Rich’s presentation in Prince George’s County, MD on June 20 about FASD and the law. Dr. Rich and two of the “BSTS change agents” met with him to discuss his perspectives about the role of the judiciary system in identifying and assisting individuals affected by FASD. As a juvenile delinquency attorney, he represents indigent minors in court who cannot afford to pay a lawyer. As Assistant Public Defender in PG County, he sees his job as educating the court about his client as a whole and not solely focused on a “snapshot” of the person’s life. Like the age old question – “Do we look at the crime or the individual?”, public defender Wilson sees the importance of making the court aware of challenges they face in their lives. “If you look at a person they are more than one event, they have a whole life behind them.” He emphasizes the importance of the right treatment protocol for a successful recovery to prevent recidivism (future delinquent acts).  He believes that further education and awareness in the PG County court system to be able to appropriately intervene in the lives of adolescents and adults affected by FASD.

The Guardian – Stop Treating Mentally Ill Children Like Criminals

The Guardian – Stop treating mentally ill children like criminals

This article highlights unthinkable social injustices and human rights discrimination against children and adolescents at their most vulnerable time – during a psychiatric emergency.  Individuals with ND-PAE are often misdiagnosed with or have co-occurring mental illness as a result of their neurodevelopmental disabilities.   When they do have need of inpatient psychiatric services, most are ill-equipped to treat their complex neurodevelopmental issues.  Because they have a hard time understanding consequences and avoiding peer pressure, they are at high risk of delinquent behavior and may end up in detention centers or jail.  There is need for more comprehensive, specialized programs and services for adolescents with ND-PAE and other neuropsychiatric conditions, not just warehousing them away from society.

Early intervention programs to identify exposed infants and toddlers with ND-PAE, as well as raising awareness about how early in pregnancy these problems happen (therefore primary prevention includes preconception health and family planning for alcohol users). Individuals with ND-PAE are at much higher risk of teen pregnancy, poor parenting skills, and subsequent child welfare issues because of low adaptive functioning skills.  Often, the way they were parented leads to their parenting style being harsh and punitive. Their limited coping skills, poor frustration tolerance, and lack of resourcefulness leaves them at much higher risk of neglect and abuse of their own children.  It is important for them to have access to injectable, implantable, and other long term, effective contraception to improve their life skills and community supports prior to pregnancy.

Putting a child in jail to await a psychiatric evaluation is like putting an elderly person with a broken hip in jail while waiting for a bed at a rehabilitation program. When are we going to start valuing the emotional well being of our most precious resource?  The children are our future and we must protect them at all cost!

More information on ND-PAE and criminal justice issues on our blog

Challenges of individuals with FASD. “Lives and crimes: Kids who suffer foetal alcohol spectrum disorder”

American Bar Association Resolution on FASD: A Call to Action for the Criminal Justice System

Prenatal Alcohol Exposure and it’s consequences…

American Bar Association Resolution on FASD: A Call to Action for the Criminal Justice System

A high percentage (60-80%) of individuals with FASD are arrested by age 18.  Due to their special needs, they require unique treatment and services to help improve their success rate in the community and prevent future trouble with the law.  For this reason, Washington State, Minnesota, and Alaska have established “FASD courts,” similar to local specialty courts for veterans, individuals with substance use disorders, and other  issues that require specialized referral and follow up.   The American Bar Association passed the following resolution in 2012 to recommend training on FASD for judges, attorneys, social workers, probation officers and others involved in the criminal justice system. http://www.americanbar.org/content/dam/aba/administrative/mental_physical_disability/Resolution_112B.authcheckdam.pdf.

RESOLVED, That the American Bar Association urges attorneys and judges, state, local, and specialty bar associations, and law school clinical programs to help identify and respond effectively to Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) in children and adults, through training to enhance awareness of FASD and its impact on individuals in the child welfare, juvenile justice, and adult criminal justice systems and the value of collaboration with medical, mental health, and disability experts.

FURTHER RESOLVED, That the American Bar Association urges the passage of laws, and adoption of policies at all levels of government, that acknowledge and treat the effects of prenatal alcohol exposure and better assist individuals with FASD.