Thursday, January 19, 2012

Legal Aspects of FASD training

I attended the Legal Aspects of FASD training yesterday. It was put on by my friend Jerrod Brown's organization, The American Institute for the Advancement of Forensic Studies. It is a new org that is up and coming! I will be doing a training for them in May on FASD and impulsivity, more info to come.

The trainer was retired Judge Tony Wartnik from Washington state. I was fortunate to spend time with him at a meeting on Tuesday as well. He is an amazing man, who truly understands FASD, a rarity with people in general, especially people of his age group, and especially of judges.

One thing that he made abundantly clear, was the importance of diagnosis. We know that research shows that 60% of people on the Fetal Alcohol Spectrum will get into some trouble with the law. I will not bury my head in the sand, there is a good possibility that Akila will some day. It sounds like there are some judges and lawyers, who are starting to have a basic understanding of FASD. This judge talked about how incarcerating young people with FASD, backfires big time as they come out worse than when they went in. This is true of many people, but especially true of people with FASD.

He also talked about how our kids are almost always involved in committing crimes in groups, and how they are not the leaders of the pack so to say. If it is a shoplifting, or a car theft, they are often alone, but the rest of the types of crimes, they are usually following the lead of more sophisticated kids. He was able to site a good number of cases that involved FASD kids and their families who have been paving the way.

I know someone else who recommends that families like mine, save money each month to keep in a legal fund for the kids in case of future problems. I have another friend who has spent thousands on legal fees in a fight with their county, a ridiculous fight that should have never happened. It could easily happen to us.

Judge Wartnik was very knowledgeable, and very compassionate. He is willing to have us email him with questions if we ever find ourselves in a sticky legal situation and need some advise. He actually is the Legal Director of an org called FASexperts. They have a doc, legal expert, neuropsychologist and psychologist who can be hired to testify in trials.

He talked about the challenge of courts looking at the IQ for mental retardation status, and how the overall IQ is not a good way to look at people with FASD. It is vital that the AQ, Adaptive Quotient is also looked at. AQ measures ones ability to function day to day without support in the areas of communication, socialization, daily living, time management, employment, etc. A person with a low AQ rating might have difficulty with impulsivity, inability to plan or follow directions, and an inability to say no. They often get in trouble with the law. This low AQ can be considered an adaptive mental disability and can result in significant problems managing daily living skills.

He had a case study of a girl, that sounded just like Akila, check this out:
  • Bulgarian, adopted at age 2, IQ 80+, prenatal exposure unknown
  • 2002-2007 (age 17) 17 assaults, weapons, cruelty to animals and 5 malicious mischief offenses.
  • Severe, rage/tantrums, highly impulsive, threatening and aggressive, destroys property, noted weakness in social judgment/knowledge of conventional standards of behavior
  • severe physical/emotional neglect at Bulgarian orphanage
  • Declared at-risk youth (age 12), continually in and out of detention and group home facilities (inability to follow court orders/ruled of group homes)Akila is 12 now, and possibly looking at out of home placement
  • School performance at 2nd and 3rd grade levels in reading, spelling and math
  • FAE is suspected (this is the former term for ARND, which is what Akila has on the Fetal Alcohol Spectrum)
  • Diagnosed at age 5 with ADHD, RAD, PTSD, Mood Disorder NOS, Intermittent Explosive Disorder, Learning Disorder in Math, estrangement from adoptive parents and relational difficulties with peers.-Akila would have been diagnosed with all of these if she were not diagnosed with FASD, which encompasses them all practically!
  • Hyperactive, hypervigilent and needing to be in control prior to age 5
  • Tried 13 different prescribed meds for her conditions with little or no benefit.-as of today, we are trying number 12
She also does not fit the 2nd bullet, but she could by age 17, and especially if she were not diagnosed and if we as her parents did not understand what we are dealing with. I am so thankful that we did learn when she was 6 that she has a FASD.

There is so much peace in naming something. It helps to know how to deal with it, and it takes some of the burden off of your shoulder as a parent. To all my friends out there, if you are suspecting FASD, please seek out a diagnosis. I probably am averaging getting a new email from one of my awesome blog readers every two weeks asking questions. Know that you are all welcome to do that anytime. I know that it was of great help to me in the beginning (and now) to be able to ask questions of someone who was farther along the journey than I was (and am). I don't always get back to you immediately, but I will at some point.

And for any of you newbies, I strongly recommend that one of your starting points should be the Damaged Angels book by Bonnie Buxton. It is linked to the right, and if you buy it through the link (or anything from Amazon through the top link), I will get a tiny kickback and I greatly appreciate it. I do recommend buying it as opposed to getting it from the library, you will refer back to it again and again. And if you're like me, you will buy more and hand them out like candy to your OB/GYN, Pediatrician, neighbors (right Kathy!), friends, relatives, OT's, etc.


tracy said...

I bought the book. I am betting I will buy 10 more to hand out.

DynamicDuo said...

It was nice to meet you at training, what I got from Judge Wartnik after speaking with him after the seminar was this - (as you know we are debating legal guardianship for our girls, we know they can't do life alone and we have little confidence in social services to really be of assistance ) -
Judge explained to me that really as a parent of a child when they are minors we have more legal obligation then after they turn 18. Prior to 18 we have a parental obligation for their safety and well being, after 18 their are considered adults even if they have a legal guardian. Having a legal guardian simply states to the professionals that this person is incompetent to make life decisions and/or incapable of understanding the rules of society and not having the ability to implement them. Many of the people whom he has worked with that have FASD would have had different outcomes within the justice system had they had someone who could explain, teach and assist not only the person with FASD but also the professionals involved.
We have until June to make a decision, as hard as it may become I don't see how we can NOT ask for legal guardianship. Our girls simply cannot be successful without us.
I explained to him that we had chosen relationship over control in parenting our girls. He paused then looked me right in the eye and said that if we want our child to be helped we will have to again choose and we may indeed lose the relationship in order to keep them safe.
Alot to absorb.