MPs have highlighted the prevalence of children with foetal alcohol spectrum disorder in the adoption system and called for better training for social workers on the issue.
In a report published today, the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on foetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) said it could be argued that adoption in the UK had become “predominantly a family finding service for children with FASD”.
The APPG highlighted a study in Peterborough which found that 75% of children referred for adoption medicals had a history of prenatal alcohol exposure, as did a third of children referred to a community clinic for looked-after health assessments. The report said anecdotal evidence suggested these figures might be similar across the country.
Social work training
The report called for social workers to receive “comprehensive training” on FASD. It said adoption and fostering preparation must identify the likelihood of adopting a child with FASD, and how parenting strategies can be adapted with this in mind.
The APPG highlighted that many older people were being granted special guardianship orders to look after grandchildren because their own children had an alcohol and/or drug misuse problem. If these guardians were not given the correct information, it said, there was a danger the children could “’bounce’ back into the care system”.
‘Million Dollar Babies’
The costs to children’s social care and the family courts arising from cases where children had FASD were also noted. “Unsurprisingly, the Canadians call children with FASD ‘the Million Dollar Babies’,” the report added.
The group challenged government, local authorities and adoption and fostering agencies to examine current policies to ensure that FASD was at the forefront of the adoption process.
Julia Brown, chief executive of The FASD Trust, which provides support for those affected by FASD, said too much social work practice was focused on “perceived need”.
“Attachment and trauma theory learnt over the last 20 years is still being applied, but the children now entering the adoption system are predominantly children who have significant need due to FASD,” Brown said.