Finding families for children affected by foetal alcohol and drugs

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The use of drugs and alcohol by pregnant women is a serious problem that research has shown to be on the increase. A recent BBC documentary: Pissed and Pregnant (part of the Binge Britain series) revealed that the number of children affected cannot be reliably estimated, but experts estimate that around 7,000 children living in the UK were born with lifelong, incurable problems, caused by their mother's drinking during pregnancy. A number of these children are in the looked-after population and some will need to be placed with families permanently.

According to research from the University of Washington/US National Centre for Health Statistics, one in 100 babies are born with FASD – more than the number with Down's Syndrome, cerebral palsy, cystic fibrosis and spina bifida.

If women drink during pregnancy, particularly in the first trimester, there is an increased risk of miscarriage, restricted growth of the child or serious developmental problems. Foetal alcohol and drugs can affect the basic structure of the brain and the way it processes information.

The most commonly used terminology within this field are Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) and Foetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS).

Awareness of the problem

Public awareness of the problems faced by children whose mothers have used alcohol and drugs is growing, but there remains much that can be done to bring this to the forefront of public debate. A recent article by Gaby Hinsliff in The Observer is a signal of the fact that the debate is becoming more widespread, however there is still a long way to go.

Parents for Children aims, as an integral part of its Maternal Drug & Alcohol Project, to ensure that the risk to unborn children of female binge drinking, drug-taking, and smoking is more widely recognised, and to combat the resistance to this message.

We aim to make people aware that

  • the number of children affected by maternal use of alcohol and drugs is increasing
  • drinking during pregnancy, especially in the first trimester, increases the risk of miscarriage, restricted growth of the child, or serious developmental problems
  • foetal alcohol and drugs can affect the basic structure of the child's brain and the way it processes information
  • there is no known cure
  • with the increasing number of children affected, there is an increasing need for carers who are willing and able to care for these especially vulnerable children

Parents for Children would very much like to hear from you if:

  • you are interested in caring for a child affected by FAS or FASD
  • you feel you can contribute to our campaign to raise awareness of this important issue

Please contact Jacky Gordon, Development Manager at: [email protected] or on 020 7520 2881.

You can find more information about FAS and FASD on:

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