Prenatal exposure to alcohol is a complex public health issue that impacts us all. Alcohol exposure during pregnancy is a major cause of birth defects, neurodevelopmental impairments, and learning problems.
At MOFAS, we are deeply committed to the prevention of prenatal alcohol exposure. There are very few public health problems where there are such clear and compelling solutions available. If a woman does not drink when she is pregnant her baby will not have the issues associated with prenatal alcohol exposure. However, how and why exposure happens is very complicated. Putting forth policy solutions that address this issue is a top priority.
It is also important to understand that at the core of everything that MOFAS does, we believe that everyone is worthy of inclusion and respect. We often find families and individuals impacted by Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) face difficulties and barriers accessing services needed to be successful. These families and individuals deserve equitable access to an education, appropriate housing and services in the community so they can live inter-dependently, have reasonable employment accommodations and have an equal access to justice. FASD cannot be cured, but it can be accommodated.
2018 Legislative Priorities
Amend the Brain Injury Waiver (PDF Factsheet)
FASD is a range of effects from prenatal alcohol exposure, including brain injury, birth defects, and physical problems that develop after birth. Contrary to popular belief, FASD is a lifelong medical condition, not a treatable mental health disorder—although most people with an FASD also live with co-occurring mental illnesses. Brain injury is the most consequential aspect of the disability, too often leading to adverse outcomes such as school failure, juvenile or criminal justice involvement, and early death.
Currently, people with an FASD who qualify for a waiver to help them live in the community typically receive a Developmental Disability (DD) waiver or a Community Access for Disability Inclusion (CADI) waiver. While CADI and DD waivers help many people with an FASD, others have an even higher level of need.
There is a third type of waiver—the Brain Injury (BI) waiver—that could help people with some of the most severe brain injuries from prenatal alcohol exposure stay in the community. Due to language in the statutes, only people who have had a brain injury after birth can qualify for a BI waiver.
Expanding the definition of “brain injury” would create access to possible brain injury-focused services. Moreover, changing the definition of brain injury would establish an opportunity to educate professionals who work with people with an FASD, such as mental health, school, corrections, and healthcare staff.
Support Community-Based Services for Pregnant Women, Mothers, & Children (PDF Factsheet)
With the right supports, mothers with substance use disorders can be healthy, maintain sobriety, and be good parents.
The Community of Recovery Aiding Families in Transition (CRAFT) prevention program serves women with a history of chemical dependency or abuse who are either pregnant or parenting dependent children in Olmsted County and the metropolitan area. With increased funding in 2017, the program will also expand to Wabasha County and Winona County and serve more women in the metropolitan area.
In 3.5-years, from 2013 to mid-2016, the program served 298 women at an average cost of $2,467 per family for the entire 3.5 years, or $705 per family per year. Only four babies were born with prenatal substance exposure during that period.
The program works by addressing root problems for the most vulnerable families by connecting them with existing community resources.
MOFAS recommends funding be continued at current levels.
FASD Training for Foster Parents (PDF Factsheet)
Each year, an estimated one in 20 children have an FASD—that’s more prevalent than autism (1). Although that’s a high number, the percentage of children with an FASD who are entering protective services and still have spent time in foster care are significantly higher.
Because so many children in foster care may have an FASD, and because foster parents need and want the tools to effectively parent the children in their care, ongoing required training on this topic is essential. This training would prevent children from being moved unnecessarily within the foster care system and would increase identification and diagnosis of this disability. Informed foster parents lead to informed communities and other professionals.
Currently, newly licensed foster parents must have FASD training in their first year. Instead, MOFAS recommends one hour of training for all non-emergency foster parents as part of their 12 hours of required training each year. This training would provide a basic overview of FASD, effective parenting strategies, resource information, and referrals for support.
1) PA May, CD Chambers, et. al, “Prevalence of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders in 4 US Communities,” Journal of the American Medical Association, 2018.
MOFAS needs your voice in advocating for all of these important legislative priorities. Check out the Advocacy Toolbox to learn more about how you can be an FASD advocate.
For more information on MOFAS and advocacy contact Sara Messelt or call 651-917-2370.
This site is provided to families and professionals as an informative site on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) and Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD). It is not intended to replace professional medical, psychological, behavioral, legal, nutritional or educational counsel. Reference to any specific agency does not necessarily constitute or imply its endorsement, recommendation, or favoring by MOFAS.