Chicago Tribune by Bonnie Miller Rubin
Adoptee Victor Petersen, 16, who has been diagnosed with fetal alcohol spectrum disorders, holds one of his family's cats while his mother, Nancy, talks on the phone. Nancy Petersen, who adopted her son in 1997, struggled for five years to get help for him
FAS is a reality that thousands of adoptive families face. It is a disability that is still widely unrecognized. In addition to educating expectant mothers of the dangers of consuming any alcohol during pregnancy, potential adoptive families need to be educated about the real trials they will face in bringing a FAS child into their families. Families who have a child who may have FAS need to be given resources to advocate for their children.
In the United States, 40,000 children are born each year with FASD--more than spina bifida, Down Syndrome and muscular dystrophy combined, according to the National Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. Children exposed to alcohol in utero are prone to poor judgment, impulsivity and are often unable to grasp cause and effect. Lifetime costs for one individual with FAS in 2002 were estimated to be $2 million, according to the CDC.
So why no telethons? Ribbons? Marches in Washington?
"There's a lot of stigma associated with alcohol abuse and this spills over into FASD," said Edward Riley, of San Diego State University, and one of the nation's leading researchers on the condition. "For biological parents, it is difficult ... it means they have to be willing to admit that they were a contributor. And for adoptive parents, it means that the perfect family they were looking for might not become a reality."
September 9th is FAS Awareness Day. Be aware, become educated, teach others.