Parents and Caregivers of Individuals with FAS/E get Support

FAS (Fetal Alcohol Syndrome) has come to seem like the code letters for some terrible disease, condemning children who have it to a life of gloom and doom. But foster mom Teresa White, whose name has, been changed to protect her privacy, will tell you differently. In 1996, she began caring for five girls, all with alcohol-related birth defects, from one to five years of age. Today, they are healthy, well-adjusted, happy youngsters and you can’t find a prouder mom anywhere.
“Thinking back, if someone had told me these kids had FAS, I might have become overwhelmed,” says Teresa. “After seven months of bedwetting, night frights, emotional problems, and non-stop cooking and cleaning, Teresa doubted she could make a difference in the girls’ lives. “Jennie, her name has also been changed, more than the other girls, used to scream and shake when she was a baby. If you tried to cuddle with her, she would pull away. She was very destructive. She broke any toy you got her. “I kept saying ‘please, help me to do right by these girls.’ Today six years later, she’s learned the magic combination to make life go smoothly. And she’s bonded so closely with the girls, they can’t be parted.
As most people know Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and Alcohol Related Birth Defects are caused when a mother drinks alcohol during her pregnancy. Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and Effects are disabilities which involve permanent brain damage, at times physical disabilities, and social, learning, and behavioral deficits. The results are permanent and debilitating but as Teresa White can attest, there is hope.
Finding hope is sometimes the challenge for caregivers of these special people. Their challenges are great and their rewards often found only once in a while. Burnout is commonplace. However, sometimes having someone to talk to, who has been through what you are experiencing, is tremendously helpful.
To this end, a support group is being formed in Peace River for Parents Caregivers and Foster Parents of individuals with FAS or FAE. Anyone who has experience with these special people is welcome to attend.
Mary Berube FAS Specialist with the Alberta Partnership for FAS will be the keynote speaker for this first meeting, reports FAS coordinator for the Region 14 FAS Committee Kelly Shram. She not only brings her professional experience as a social worker and FAS educator to the table but also her experience raising grown children with FAS. She will be facilitating a discussion on how parents and caregivers can cope and meet the needs of individuals with FAS but also how they can effectively advocate for these individuals.
If you know you are caring for someone who is alcohol effected or if you only suspect, come and meet Mary and other parents and foster parents experiencing the same challenges, invites Schram. The meeting will be December 6th, at 7:30 p.m. in the Grimshaw Room downstairs at the Catholic Conference Center in Peace River.
Teresa knows the teen years are coming, and books and pamphlets she’s read tell her problems for children with FAS can become more serious as they grow older. Many drop out of school, get in trouble with the law, and can’t hold a job.
“Not worried,” says Teresa. “These girls are healthy in body, mind and spirit. What I’ve taught them about love and honor will go with them to their graves. What they know will help the “fit” into life. And life will be good.”
For more information call Kelly Shram, FAS Coordinator Region 14 FAS Committee at 624-6558.