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SAMHSA News - January/February 2008, Volume 16, Number 1


FASD Resources Available

For Juvenile Justice Professionals

By Kristin Blank

Youth with fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) are at high risk of getting into trouble with the law, according to the FASD Center for Excellence, funded by SAMHSA's Center for Substance Abuse Prevention.

To help, SAMHSA recently released a new training toolkit—Tools for Success Curriculum: Working with Youth with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) in the Juvenile Justice System. The toolkit is designed for a variety of professionals, including advocates, attorneys, social workers, probation officers, and health and social service providers.

Developed jointly by the SAMHSA FASD Center for Excellence and the Minnesota Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, the curriculum’s goal is to help professionals in the juvenile justice system identify youth who may have FASD and deliver effective services.

Tools for Success is a straightforward curriculum, with timelines and talking points provided for each module. A team of two professionals, one from the field of FASD and one from the juvenile justice field, should lead the course, modeling important cross-system collaboration.

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Challenges

Youth with FASD face many challenges that make them vulnerable to criminal activity. They can be easily influenced by peer pressure, can lack impulse control, and may not understand cause and effect or learn from mistakes.

According to the toolkit, 60 percent of people with FASD age 12 and older face legal troubles. These youth often cycle through the juvenile justice system with no recognition of their disabilities, since many people do not display physical abnormalities.

Instead, the disorders are displayed in behaviors that can be misinterpreted easily. For instance, youth with FASD can appear uncooperative because they are confused. They often are unaware of social expectations or cues, and police may think them belligerent.

In addition, these youth often are desperate to make friends, making them vulnerable for use as scapegoats. Generally, they tell people what they want to hear, possibly leading to false confessions. Because they usually cannot grasp broad concepts, youth with FASD may not understand their Miranda rights.

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What’s in the Toolkit

The comprehensive Tools for Success curriculum helps professionals in the juvenile justice system steer these youth toward a healthy, productive adulthood.

Facilitator’s Manual. The two-volume manual contains outlines of the seven modules that range 1.5 to 3 hours in length, pre- and posttests, PowerPoint slides, a CD-ROM of all course materials, group activities, and discussion questions.

  • Module 1 is an overview of the characteristics, daily challenges, and financial costs of FASD.

  • Module 2 focuses on the prevalence of disabilities in the justice system and reviews characteristics that put youth at risk for legal trouble.

  • Module 3 focuses on what happens after the first contact with the juvenile justice system, alternatives to formal court, screening and assessment, and competency evaluations.

  • Module 4 gives insights into awareness, advocacy, community treatment interventions, and probation.

  • Module 5 describes effective education services and behavior management strategies.

  • Module 6 explains how transition and aftercare issues are vital to a child’s success, with emphasis on employment.

  • Module 7 discusses finding resources for parents and professionals and addresses building community support systems.

Guide for Parents and Caregivers. This handout informs parents about FASD, children’s rights in the juvenile justice system, effective advocacy strategies, and suggestions for interventions.

Tools for Success is available free of charge from SAMHSA’s Health Information Network at 1-877-SAMHSA-7 (1-877-726-4727) or 1-800-487-4889 (TDD). Request inventory number SMA07-4291.

For a free PDF copy, visit http://download.ncadi.samhsa.gov/Prevline/pdfs/SMA07-4291.pdf (size: 26.2 MB).

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What Is FASD?

Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders describe the range of effects that can occur in individuals whose mothers drank alcohol during pregnancy. These effects may include physical, mental, behavioral, or learning disabilities with possible lifelong implications.

 

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