I've started to blog about this story about my brother’s involvement with the criminal justice system so many times and stopped. When I try to write it I seem to either be hysterically emotional, or robotically factual. I can’t seem to modulate the tone from either extreme. I've tried to stick with the factual here. I don;t know that I have totally succeeded. Is it even possible to do when you care so much? It was also hard for me to decide where to start this story. How far back do you go? The roots of the situation go back before birth right?
The fact is, my brother John is almost a text book case of how to insure a child affected with FASD ends up tangled up in the criminal justice system. Every risk factor for the development of secondary disabilities is there. John was removed from his biological mother’s care – along with his 4 siblings - at the age of 6 for abuse and neglect. His mother was addicted to both alcohol and drugs. She was regularly beat up (along with the kids) by various "boyfriends." John and his twin sister were born alcohol exposed. Their mother reported no “drug” use while pregnant with them. The younger two children are confirmed for poly drug and alcohol exposure but none of the children have an FASD diagnosis in the CPS files shared with the families they were placed with and no specific effort to place them in therapeutic foster homes appears to have been made.
By the time he entered the foster care system, in addition to the prenatal alcohol exposure, John had already been abused physically and sexually. When he rather predictably acted out with rages he was separated from his siblings and bounced from home to home. By the time he came to our family at the age of 13 he had done two stints in group homes, all kinds of state mandated therapy, and was on a cocktail of 6 different medications to “control his undesirable aggression.”
The risk factors identified by over 50 years of research that increase the likelihood a child with FASD will engage in unhealthy behavior as a teen or an adult (such as the use of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs, violence, suicide, or involvement in the criminal justice system) are:
- Having an IQ above 70. Check. John tested at 85 at the time he came to us.
- Lack of early diagnosis. Check. John was not formally diagnosed until after he came to us. He received no interventions targeted at a child with FASD.
- Experiencing neglect. Check.
- Experiencing child abuse (physical or sexual) Check and Check.
- Experiencing other family violence. Check.
- Family history of substance abuse, mental illness, and / or criminal activities. Check, Check, and Check.
- Family access to drugs, alcohol, and weapons. Check, Check, and Check again.
- Poverty. Check.
- Multiple foster placements (or family moves). Check.
- Early sexual activity. Check. John reports first being sexually active (voluntarily) at the age of 11 in one of his group home placements.
- Early academic failures. Check.
Every possible card that could be stacked against him was from the very the beginning.