Kai and kōrero, recognising FASD

Published: November 7, 2022 · Updated: June 15, 2023

A multi-agency team in Waikato are hoping to raise awareness, connectedness and increase information sharing around FASD (Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder).

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Kaimahi at a morning tea to mark International FASD Day. From left to right: Sophia Tuhura (Te Whatu Ora Publice Health, Waikato), Candy Atkinson (caregiver), Aotea Maipi (Te Whatu Ora Public Health, Waikato).

A multi-agency team in Waikato are hoping to raise awareness, connectedness and increase information sharing around FASD (Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder).

They recently held a morning tea to mark International FASD Day, one of many initiatives underway in the region to improve outcomes for tamariki and families with FASD.

Thoughts from Waikato Regional Disability Advisor

Waikato Regional Disability Advisor Rose Hawkins says it was inspiring to have so many people in the same room sharing stories, resources and raising awareness.

'I had in my mind let’s just put a stake in the ground for Waikato so we’ve got a starting point, even if only 4 of us turn up it will spur ongoing collaborative work and community recognition of FASD, but we had about 17 people turn up!' she says.

Those who attended included caregivers and whānau, kaimahi from Oranga Tamariki Care and Protection and Youth Justice teams, the education sector, Te Whatu Ora Public Health and Gateway, and Caring Families Aotearoa. Caring Families Aotearoa hosted, and Te Whatu Ora Public Health provided the splendid kai.

Rose says it was a melding together of reality.

'It was really powerful for caregivers. They felt they weren’t alone with professionals readily available to support them. Our Oranga Tamariki professionals heard stories from a real angle, straight from caregivers saying "here are our stories of our dysfunctional families, let’s just be real about it". It was an equalising experience for us all,' she says.

Rose MC’ed, highlighting three FASD innovations from the Waikato, with the originators all present at the morning tea.

The Te Awamutu Te Whai Ora site also held a morning tea, to support their acknowledgement of FASD in care, and the progressive FASD work they have embarked on.

It’s an important milestone, showing real progress for Waikato. Rose hopes that other regions and national office will follow suit, to recognise the relationship between pre-natal alcohol/other substances and the neuro-disability that is seen in child protection and high-level youth justice in Aotearoa, as it is internationally.

'We know about FASD in Oranga Tamariki now, but there’s a next step to make to recognise the whakapapa, whanaungatanga and colonisation effects and to acknowledge how we are all involved in alcohol culture somehow.

'When I first started running FASD workshops I was cautious about talking about the prevalence of FASD in care and high-level youth justice, and the presence of FASD in families, but after doing over 100 workshops around the motu, I’m aware that most families both those we work with, and professionals will have someone impacted or know someone who is impacted somewhere along the line.

'Statistics from our Evidence Centre show that 75% of children in care in New Zealand have a parent who has had substance use treatment, which suggests it’s totally important for this organisation,' she says.

Rose is encouraging everyone around the country to learn more about FASD, and to next year mark September 9 in their calendar.

'We hope as other regions and national office develop their knowledge and interest in how fundamental FASD practice is to Oranga Tamariki mahi, that they will be marking FASD Day.'

Practice Centre

Updated guidance on FASD will be published on the Practice Centre in December, as part of the new Disability section. The updated guidance will deepen the knowledge and skills of our kaimahi to deliver FASD-informed practice.

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More information

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