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Many women who have FASD are able to benefit from tailored support on substance use problems. Audrey McFarlane, Executive Director of Lakeland Centre for FASD in Cold Lake AB recently shared strategies for working on FASD prevention with women who have FASD themselves. One of the LCFASD programs, the 2nd Floor Women’s Recovery Centre, provides residential treatment exclusively to women. She explained how programs can better support women who have FASD.

Challenges

Because of the possible neuro-behavioural and physical health issues associated with FASD, working with women living with FASD may pose particular challenges for the service provider due to:

  • Limited understanding of how their body works and how or why to use birth control;
  • Limited understanding of how to get housing, money and to keep themselves safe;
  • Physical health issues, such as diabetes, STDs, vision, hearing and dental;
  • Limited ability to envision the future;
  • Inability to link actions to consequences, which makes them more likely to be connected to the justice system and to have many children not in their care with multiple partners.

Strategies

McFarlane says that these and other challenges mean it often takes longer to see the benefits of supports. Yet, there are a number of strategies that have proven successful.

  • Take a family alcohol history and ask each woman, specifically, if she has a diagnosis of FASD. Woman will tell you if they do, but are often not even asked.
  • Make suggestions in key areas where they can agree or disagree rather than using client-generated approaches.
  • Prioritize building a relationship so that the woman will come back for support as needed. Reframe returning to treatment as a positive, not a negative.
  • Expect to spend more time on basic life skills and necessities. She may not have connection to family or social services. This means treatment needs to be longer.
  • Approaches that work best include solution-focused counselling, physical activities, positive touch, relaxation, and connections that develop a sense of belonging, like volunteering and cultural practices.

Resources

Here are a number of resources on trauma-informed and FASD-informed approaches for working with women living with FASD.

FASD Informed

2 Reports on Substance Using Women with FASD and FASD Prevention: Voices of Women and Perspectives of Providers, prepared by Deborah Rudman

Evaluation of FASD Prevention and FASD Support Programs website

FASD Informed Approach by Mary Mueller, RN, Waterloo Region Public Health and Emergency Services

FASD Informed Practice for Community Based Programs, College of New Caledonia

Working with Women Who May Have FASD Themselves – Webinar View SlidesRecording

Trauma Informed

Pregnancy, Alcohol, and Trauma-informed Practice, The Prevention Conversation

Trauma-informed Approaches to FASD Prevention – Webinar View SlidesRecording

Trauma-Informed Practice Resource List, Centre of Excellence for Women’s Health

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For more on this topic, see earlier posts:

WEBINAR JUNE 23 – WORKING WITH PREGNANT AND PARENTING WOMEN: LEARNINGS FROM HERWAY HOME, June 16, 2016

NEW CURRICULUM FOR FASD INFORMED PRACTICE, August 1, 2016

THE MOTHER-CHILD STUDY: EVALUATING TREATMENTS FOR SUBSTANCE-USING WOMEN, March 18, 2015

FACT SHEET ON SUPPORTING WOMEN WITH FASD IN RESIDENTIAL SUBSTANCE ABUSE TREATMENT, April 22, 2013

TRAUMA MATTERS: GUIDELINES FOR TRAUMA‐INFORMED PRACTICES IN WOMEN’S SUBSTANCE USE SERVICES, April 17, 2013

 

negative-space-macbook-graphs-chartsWhen you sign up for online alerts regarding new FASD research, a lot of research articles come your way. Some offer hope like the recent article on a possible future treatment for newborns diagnosed with FASD (see Common drugs reverse signs of fetal alcohol syndrome in rats). But most are headlines about newly identified risks associated with alcohol-exposed pregnancies.

For instance, these four recent headlines:

Drinking alcohol during pregnancy could have transgenerational effects

Prenatal exposure to alcohol increases likelihood of addiction later in life

Any alcohol consumption during pregnancy affects craniofacial development

Foetus absorbs mother’s alcohol and nicotine intake in just 2 hours

From a scientific research standpoint, it’s important to fully understand effects of alcohol -exposed pregnancies. But, from a prevention point of view, does it add anything to our efforts to know one more reason drinking alcohol during pregnancy is risky? Does it lessen the stigma these women face? Would one more identified risk be the thing a woman needed to hear in order to stop drinking in her pregnancy or while trying to become pregnant?

Obviously, the full picture of effects is important, and this kind of medical and scientific research should continue. At the same itme, it would be helpful to see more headlines on what has been discovered around prevention – focusing on programs that support the mother child dyad, efforts to reduce stigma, and implementation of trauma-informed and FASD-informed practices and policies.

How about five headlines like these?

Relational treatment programs reduce risk of alcohol-exposed pregnancies and FASD

Connection to culture is key to prevention for many women

Changes in alcohol policy contribute to reduction of violence against women and incidence of alcohol-exposed pregnancies

Secure housing contributes to reduction in alcohol-exposed pregnancies

Women who can safely discuss alcohol with their health provider are  more likely to stop risky drinking

This real headline deserves more coverage: “ If we want to save lives, control alcohol. ”

We have lots of information of the risks of alcohol-exposed pregnancies. The work now is about prevention and we will work to bring you those “headlines.”


For more information on these topics, see these previous posts:

REACHING AND ENGAGING WOMEN: WHAT WORKS AND WHAT’S NEEDED May 15, 2017

THUNDER BAY’S FAMILY HEALTH PROGRAM PUBLISHES RESEARCH REPORT FOR PREVENTING ALCOHOL-EXPOSED PREGNANCY October 4, 2016>

THE WORK OF THE NETWORK ACTION TEAM ON FASD PREVENTION FROM A WOMEN’S HEALTH DETERMINANTS PERSPECTIVE (CANFASD RESEARCH NETWORK) April 11, 2016

FASD ISSUE PAPERS FROM THE CANADA FASD RESEARCH NETWORK PROVIDE A QUICK OVERVIEW OF RECENT RESEARCH December 1, 2014

SUPPORTING PREGNANT WOMEN WHO USE ALCOHOL OR OTHER DRUGS: A GUIDE FOR PRIMARY HEALTH CARE PROFESSIONALS MAY 15, 2016

FREE WEBINAR: UPDATED RESOURCES ON WOMEN AND ALCOHOL: APPLYING RESEARCH TO PRACTICE – MAY 8, 2014 April 21, 2014

FASD PREVENTION RESEARCH AND KNOWLEDGE TRANSLATION: DEVELOPING A PAN-CANADIAN AGENDA WORKSHOP January 29, 2014

FASD INFORMED PRACTICE FOR COMMUNITY BASED PROGRAMS March 27, 2014

RESEARCH MAKES LINKS BETWEEN GENDER, ETHNICITY, CHILDHOOD ABUSE AND ALCOHOL USE April 2, 2013

TRAUMA MATTERS: GUIDELINES FOR TRAUMA‐INFORMED PRACTICES IN WOMEN’S SUBSTANCE USE SERVICES April 17, 2013

4th in Series: First-ever FASD Prevention Plenary at the 7th International Conference on FASD: PART 3

“Research on Reaching and Engaging Women and Children using Approaches that are Theory Based, and have an Equity Lens” – Janet Christie, Addiction Recovery Coach, Canada; Anne Russell of the Russell Family Fetal Alcohol Disorders, Australia; Pippa Williams of UK and European Mothers Network-FASD; Margaret Leslie and Dr. Mary Motz of the Mothercraft/Breaking the Cycle, Canada

L to R: Janet Christie, Anne Russell, Pippa Williams, Margaret Leslie, Dr. Mary Motz with Dr. Nancy Poole, Prevention Plenary Co-Lead

One of the highlights of the first Plenary on Prevention at the 2017 International Conference on FASD, was the presentation on supporting women and families dealing with issues of alcohol and FASD.

Janet Christie, Anne Russell and Pippa Williams are three birth mothers who have created supports for women and families dealing with issues of alcohol or FASD. Their experiences have informed and are reflected in many reports and studies: that no woman intends to harm her child; that there are multiple and complex issues that affect women at risk for alcohol-exposed pregnancies; and, that fragmented and inflexible services make it difficult for women and families to get help.

Stigma is one of the biggest barriers affecting access to services. Addiction is still viewed by many as a moral failing rather than a public health issue. Meanwhile the alcohol industry normalizes and glamourizes drinking to women through targeted marketing campaigns. Women are often met with judgement and blame, and fear losing their children if they seek help for an addiction. As well, mothers whose children have FASD need support in dealing with their feelings of guilt and with parenting their children. Often women have complex and intersecting issues, including FASD, that affect their ability to accept support. While these three mothers/advocates are from different countries, they all identify these same issues, and call for programs with wrap-around services to support women and their families.

Margaret Leslie and Dr. Mary Motz then described such a program – Breaking the Cycle in Toronto and its mother-child study “Focus on Relationships”. Based upon well-researched attachment theory, the program focuses on the mother-child dyad during the pre- and post-partum period and on building trust, safety and relational capacity. Relationships extend to staff and service providers. Program efforts to develop collaborative relationships between child welfare, addiction recovery and mental health service agencies have successfully created an integrated and flexible program with the goal of supporting the whole family.

 

For more on these topics, see earlier posts:

The Mother-Child Study: Evaluating Treatments for Substance-Using Women, March 18, 2015
Supporting Pregnant and Parenting Women Who Use Substances: What Communities are Doing to Help, October 1, 2012
Herway Home ‘One-Stop Access’ Program in Victoria Set to Open, May 20, 2012
“New Choices” for Pregnant and Parenting Women with Addictions, January 9, 2012
Toronto Centre for Substance Use in Pregnancy (T-CUP), December 19, 2011
Clinical Webcast on Breaking the Cycle Program: September 20, 2011, August 2, 2011
Why Would She Drink? Winnipeg Free Press Articles Explore Drinking during Pregnancy, April 4, 2011

Best Start Resource Centre in Ontario has published a new guide to help facilitators deliver FASD workshops for First Nations women (Download guide). Using culture as its foundation, the guide focuses on promoting health. It also integrates FASD-informed and trauma-informed approaches. It is set up so that facilitators do not have to be an expert on the subject of FASD. The guide provides detailed background information, instructions and resources so that facilitators can fully prepare themselves for delivering the workshops.

planning-for-change-picture

Topics covered in the training guide include:

  • Preparing for the Workshop – covers information like bringing the workshop to communities where there is a concern about the stigma attached to FASD, planning for participant learning differences, as well as handling logistical details.
  • Facilitating the Workshop – includes welcoming activities, giving background about healthy pregnancy, identifying and building on personal strengths, making a plan for health, and drawing on community for support and self care.
  • Resources, Services and Appendices – provided are weblinks to further information and videos; services for pregnancy, parenting, substance use and FASD; participant handouts, and consent forms.

Best Start Resource Centre is well known for its resources for service providers who work with diverse women and families on preconception health, prenatal health and child development.

For more on related topics, see earlier posts:

FASD is a public safety and justice priority for Aboriginal groups, October 23, 2016

Experiences of Northern British Columbian Aboriginal Mothers Raising Adolescents With FASD, January 20, 2014

Pimotisiwin: A Good Path for Pregnant and Parenting Aboriginal Teens, August 26, 2013

“You are not alone. Support is available.” Alcohol and pregnancy campaign designed by and for Aboriginal women in Manitoba, April 10, 2013

Handbook for Aboriginal Alcohol and Drug Work from Australia, January 9, 2013

The Sacred Journey – new resource for service providers who work with First Nations families, August 1, 2012

Aboriginal Comic Book for Pregnant Women and New Moms, May 1, 2012

Pregnancy and Alcohol Brochure for Aboriginal Families, January 30, 2012

Aboriginal midwifery and Poverty & Pregnancy in Aboriginal Communities, August 17, 2011

dorothy-awardDorothy Badry was honoured by the Premier’s Council on the Status of Persons with Disabilities for Alberta on December 2nd. Dorothy has been a long-time advocate, researcher and educator on the impact of FASD (and a dedicated member of the Prevention Network Action Team). Her work has contributed to FASD being recognized as a disability. For families and individuals affected by FASD, that recognition has made a huge difference.

In a University of Calgary article written about her, she describes FASD as an health “outcome” – a key shift from early stigmatizing assessments. This allows for a relational approach that includes women, children, families, and communities and for inclusive and multi-level prevention/intervention strategies.

An original member of the Canada FASD Research Network, we have benefited from Dorothy’s active participation and counsel. She has been featured in some of our previous blogs for her work at with University of Calgary, Alberta province, and several FASD-related programs. We are happy to feature her once again for this well-deserved honour. Congratulations, Dorothy Badry.

For related blogs, see previous postings:

“Developing Services for Canadians Living with FASD” interview with Dorothy Badry on Family Caregivers Unite! January 5, 2015

Alberta’s PCAP Women’s Quilt: “Creating a bond . . . Building a relationship” April 22, 2016

The work of the Network Action Team on FASD Prevention from a Women’s Health Determinants Perspective (CanFASD Research Network) April 11, 2016

Webinar: “Caregiving, FASD, and Alcohol: Caring about FASD Prevention” – September 9, 2015 August 25, 2015

First Peoples Child & Family Review journal: Special Issue on FASD December 9,

Case Management to Prevent Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder September 20, 2013

Women’s health and FASD prevention in a special issue of the International Journal of Circumpolar Health August 6, 2013

Brightening Our Home Fires: An FASD Prevention and Women’s Health Project in Canada’s Northwest Territories May 6, 2013

The 5th International Conference on Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder: Special Session on FASD Prevention January 14, 2013

Look for us at the 5th National Biennial Conference on Adolescents and Adults with FASD (April 18-21, 2012) April 9, 2012

Federal, provincial, and territorial ministers met in Halifax, Nova Scotia, on October 14-5 to discuss issues of justice and public safety in Canada including the impact of FASD. Co-chairs of the meeting were Minister of Justice and Attorney General, Jody Wilson-Raybold, Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, Ralph Goodale, and the Minister of Justice and Atto2016-09-life-of-pix-free-stock-leaves-red-sky-leeroyrney General of Nova Scotia, Diana Whalen. Five national indigenous groups participated in the meeting: the Native Women’s Association of Canada, the Assembly of First Nations, the Métis National Council, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, and the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples.

Vice-Chief Kim Beaudin from the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples outlined the groups’ priorities to the ministers. Stating that “the most significant issue is violence against women and girls” Beaudin further stressed related issues of FASD, Indigenous girls’ health and safety, violence against Indigenous women, and family justice reforms for Indigenous women.

During the meeting, Ministers discussed the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada: Calls to Action. It underscores the need to address FASD in action numbers 33 and 34, in particular. Ministers agreed to collaborate on addressing solutions for the economic and social impacts of alcohol abuse and to release their final report on FASD and Access to Justice.

FASD prevention efforts in Canada call for multiple approaches that are holistic and move beyond just advising women not to drink during pregnancy (See: Four-part Model of Prevention). The impact of violence and trauma in all its forms on the mental and physical health and safety of women and their families and communities informs and shapes these efforts.

For more on related topics, see earlier blog posts:

New Zealand has published an action plan on how best to address FASD. Described as a “whole of government action plan” by Associate Minister of Health, Peter Dunne, Taking Action on Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder: 2016-1019 builds on the best practices being done across communities and service sectors including government policy and partnerships, as well as front line prevention and intervention. According to Fetal Alcohol Network NZ, the government is earmarking an initial 12 million for these efforts, which will increase support and services to women with alcohol and substance use issues.

New Zealand began the process of building the action plan with a discussion document of principles, priorities and action areas. They spent over a year seeking submissions and comments on the plan from professionals, communities, families and whānau (Maori extended family.)  Notable changes to the principles based on those submissions included issues of ethnic and services inequities, as well as stigmatization of women, families and individuals with FASD. The resulting principles defined the core priorities of the plan: prevention, early identification, support and evidence. These priorities framed its action building blocks and designated indications of success of plan outcomes. You can view an analysis of the Ministry of Health action plan submissions here.

By underscoring a collaborative and practical approach, the goal is to make sure that “FASD is prevented and people with FASD and their family/whānau live the best possible lives.”(1) Read more about New Zealand’s efforts:
http://www.health.govt.nz/publication/taking-action-fetal-alcohol-spectrum-disorder-2016-2019-action-plan

To read more about New Zealand’s prevention efforts see these previous posts:

First FEBFAST and Debates about Alcohol Labeling in New Zealand, February 1, 2011


References

  1. FASD Working Group. 2016. Taking Action on Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder: 2016–2019: An action plan. Wellington, NZ: Ministry of Health.

 

 

 

The College of New Caledonia (CNC) has developed a FASD-informed training curriculum to support their FASD informed guide and in response to the expressed needs of three national programs supported by the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) that focus on healthy birth outcomes and healthy outcomes for children.

FASD Trauma Informed guide“Facilitating a Collaborative, Strength-based Approach to FASD Informed Practice:  Western Region BC” was developed following consultations with workers in The Community Action Program for Children (CAPC), the Canada Prenatal Nutrition Program (CPNP), and Aboriginal Head Start (AHS in BC). Workers and administrators wanted help in adjusting their practice of working with women, children and families to include FASD-informed approaches.

These trainings were delivered on-site to approximately 350 people during 2014-2016. Developed by Anne Guarasci and Barb Durban with funding from PHAC, the curriculum, in the form of PowerPoint presentations, has been refined for distribution and consists of three separate presentations each with a particular focus, but all include a primer on FASD including current diagnostic terminology.

1. “Supporting Marginalized Parents who may have FASD” — This presentation focuses on what causes FASD, how it is diagnosed, and who is at risk; the complex nature of prevention and why a holistic, relational approach is required; behavioural and cognitive cues that may indicate FASD; and, the fundamentals of an FASD-informed practice.

Empower guide2. “Strategies and Structures for Supporting Marginalized Women and Families who may have FASD” — Participants explore practices and communication skills that empower and support clients and build relationships; examine individual and agency perceptions, policies and structures in order to reduce barriers to relationship and services for clients; and, develop FASD-specific communication strategies. Client “compliance” issues are re-examined within the context of brain functioning. FASD diagnostic terminology and pathways to access assessment and diagnosis are reviewed.

3. “FASD Prevention” — Using a FASD-informed approach as described in CNC guides (1,2) and the work of Deb Rutman (3), this training builds on the 4 levels of prevention of FASD in Canada (4): awareness and health promotion; brief counseling with women and girls of childbearing age; specialized prenatal support; and postpartum support.  How FASD-informed and trauma-informed approaches overlap is explored along with many strategies for working with women, including those who may have FASD, such as building relationships and reducing barriers through reflective practice, Motivational Interviewing, harm reduction, and individualized services.

The FASD-informed practice training curricula is intended for training of program coordinators and administrators, new frontline workers and seasoned workers who may benefit from a refresher. A year-long evaluation of the training was conducted by Deborah Rutman, and the results will be available for presentation in this blog space, in the next few months.

For more about FASD-informed work, see earlier posts:


REFERENCES/SUGGESTED READING

  1. Guarasci, Anne (2013). FASD Informed Practice for Community Based Programs. Burns Lake, BC: College of New Caledonia – Lakes District Campus.
  2. Guarasci, Anne (2011). Empowering Front-Line Staff and Families Through a Collection of Lived Experiences: Supporting Women Who Have Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) Behaviours and Characteristics and/or Other Related Disabilities. Burns Lake, BC: College of New Caledonia – Lake District Campus.
  3. Rutman, D. (2011). Substance using women with FASD and FASD prevention: Voices of women with FASD: Promising approaches in substance use treatment and care for women with FASD. Victoria, BC: University of Victoria.
  4. Poole, Nancy A. (2008). Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) Prevention: Canadian Perspectives. Public Health Agency of Canada: Ottawa, ON.

 

Overview: Four Levels of FASD Prevention

Information Sheet: What Men Can Do To Prevent FASD

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