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Competence 5: Continuing Care of Families Affected by FASD

Issues Related to Professional Values and Ethics

Addiction professionals have a unique opportunity to identify, educate, and counsel clients with an FASD or possible FASD, children with an FASD or possible FASD, and families affected by FASD. Prevention, early identification and intervention can significantly limit adverse consequences of alcohol abuse. To identify, educate, and counsel effectively, addiction professionals need to recognize the differences in risk factors, presentation, and treatment relevant to these targeted populations. Treatment plans must be tailored to the client’s needs and provide comprehensive plans to address the multifaceted issues presented. Prevention tools should be available and used by treatment practitioners as an important part of their practice.

 IMPORTANT

Working with clients with an FASD can be challenging and frustrating. The addiction professional may be tempted to end contact as soon as possible and let the family and aftercare providers take over. However, continued involvement can help in the transition to aftercare and ongoing recovery. The addiction professional can help the family and client through the transition by referring them to resources and assisting in accessing services.

Maintaining a supportive attitude will help the family deal with the many issues they will face as the client moves from treatment to the community and ongoing recovery. The addiction professional needs to strive for a nonjudgmental attitude toward clients and families affected by FASD. He or she should not assume that FASD is hopeless and services are not worth the time, expense, or effort. The addiction professional needs to treat clients and families affected by FASD in a respectful manner and refer them to community resources that can provide support. NOFAS maintains an online directory Exit Disclaimer Graphic that can be used to identify support groups and other resources.

African American counselor standing next to a girl who is seated and working on a computer

FASD is difficult for individuals and families. The condition carries a stigma and some clients and families may deny that the client has an FASD. Parents might feel guilty or ashamed that their child has an FASD. The client might find her condition embarrassing and frustrating. The addiction professional needs to treat the client and family with sensitivity and help them address these issues. Incorporating aspects of the client’s culture and spirituality may ease some of the difficulty. For example, using storytelling or spiritual metaphors may help with clients and families whose cultures frown on sharing personal information.

It is important to share information on the dangers of alcohol use during pregnancy with clients with an FASD and their families. The addiction professional needs to handle this issue sensitively. It is important to convey that FASD is serious without appearing to judge the client harshly. Sympathy toward the client’s difficulties living with an FASD can help in sharing the message that an alcohol-free pregnancy is best for the child. It is also important to frame any discussions about birth control within the context of the client’s culture and spiritual beliefs so that the client and her family are comfortable with any arrangements.

IMPORTANT

Compassion is especially important in arranging continuing care for clients with an FASD. To the extent possible, the addiction professional needs to educate service providers about FASD. Family members often have to teach service providers about FASD and support from the addiction professional can relieve the family’s stress and allow them to focus more on the services their family member needs.

FASD raises many difficult issues. Honesty and integrity are important. Being open with the client about problems stemming from his or her FASD is important. It is also important to share any troubling incidents or issues with the family so that they can assist in developing strategies to address them. These issues also need to be dealt with as part of continuing care arrangements. It does not help the client to withhold concerns that may arise later. Sharing any concerns with service providers and working out strategies is important in setting the stage for a supportive transition to aftercare and ongoing recovery.

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