A Guelph couple who adopted their son when he was three-weeks of age were forced to surrender their parental rights of their son in an effort to ensure their son would receive supportive services for his FASD diagnosis. The couple and their son, who remain unnamed, lived as a family unit for fourteen years. During this time, the adoptive parents revealed that they experienced many difficulties with their son’s violent outbursts. After attaining a diagnosis of FASD for their son when he was a toddler, the couple felt confident that they would be able to access supportive resources for their son. The couple was devastated to discover the lack of supportive services available to them. They found that the only supports available to them came as a result of their son’s “autistic tendencies” and failed to address behavioural concerns stemming from the organic brain injury resulting from FASD.
Ultimately, the couple felt compelled to terminate their parental rights, thereby making their son a Crown ward. Feeling unable to cope with the developing behaviours of their son compounded by the lack of social supports, the couple approached Children’s Aid and the recommendation to them was to follow through with terminating their parental rights to their son. The son has been placed in foster care and will be moved into a treatment group home where he will have access to FASD services.
This case highlights the lack of accessibility to services for individuals and families affected by FASD. Though the access to services was mediated by the intervention of the state, the process of accessing these services meant removing an adolescent from his home and from his family. The question then remains: how do we allow for families to access services for children with FASD diagnoses while maintaining their involvement with their children? And if the supports exist, what is their value to the families who could benefit from them if they are inaccessible outside of state intervention? This is one instance of individuals who have been failed by the existing supports for those with FASD diagnoses, and signals a need for more accessible resources in communities across Canada.