Prenatal alcohol exposure is a leading cause for placing children in a child-care system (e.g., orphanage, foster care or child welfare system) and leaves this population at high risk for fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD), according to a September 2013 article published by Pediatrics, the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Children and youth often enter a child-care system because of neglect or abuse most commonly related to maternal alcohol abuse. Children of alcoholic mothers are at high risk for FASD, which leads to increased rates of developmental disabilities, congenital malformations, and mental health diagnoses, according to the article.
Researchers examined data from multiple electronic databases and internationally published and unpublished studies in order to determine the prevalence of FASD. They find the presence of FASD in various countries is very high, with about 6 percent of children in all types of child-care systems having fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) as of June 2013. Additionally, the presence of FAS in children in care is between 10 and 60 times higher than the presence of FAS in the general population.
The report explains that FASD’s increasing prevalence in care systems is due to its nature as a cyclical problem. This means women with an FASD diagnosis are likely to drink while pregnant, give birth to children with an FASD diagnosis, and surrender or lose custody.
The study reports that FASD is not widely recognized by health care practitioners and is therefore not diagnosed in many cases. This is attributed to a lack of training of health care practitioners, which could perpetuate FASD if efforts to increase the capacity of care are not made.
Data sources for the article include the Developmental Disabilities Research Reviews Journal, Canada’s Drug Strategy Division and published studies from Brazil, Chile, Canada, Russia, Spain, Sweden and the U.S.
Pediatrics is a peer-reviewed journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, which is a professional association committed to the physical, mental and social health of youth.