Reno – The National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges (NCJFCJ) has released a new guide to assist judges and the legal community in understanding Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD). The Guide helps legal professionals respond to individuals within the court who suffer from a FASD and enables judges to take a leadership position in increasing awareness and understanding of the need for targeted interventions.
The NCJFCJ prepared the guide as part of a project jointly funded under an interagency agreement (IAA) between the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP), Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice.
According to the Center for Disease Control, up to one in twenty children in the U.S. are affected by FASD, which is caused by the consumption of alcohol during pregnancy. Alcohol exposure during pregnancy is a major cause of neurodevelopmental impairments and learning disabilities in the U.S. and is 100 percent preventable. However, for most children with FASD, there are no obvious physical manifestations, and IQ deficits, if any, vary greatly.
Together, with OJJDP and NIAAA, the NCJFCJ created Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders: Implications for Juvenile and Family Court Judges, with input from juvenile and family court judges, and experts from around the country to increase judicial knowledge of FASD, including implications for court proceedings and case dispositions involving children and families affected by FASD; increase awareness of available resources and services for children and families affected by FASD; and, provide guidance on judicial leadership. The ultimate goal of the guide is to improve the court process and outcomes for children, families, and communities affected by FASD.
“Based on my experience in a large urban juvenile court, FASD is a significant, unrecognized problem in our juvenile and family courts. Recognizing and understanding FASD is critical for judges in improving outcomes for youth and families impacted by this disability. This will be an excellent resource in an easy to understand format for judges to begin that understanding,” said former first lady of Minnesota and Juvenile Court Judge Susan Carlson (Ret.).
Children and adults often end up involved in the legal system due to poor self-regulation and self-control. This is often the case with children in juvenile justice (delinquency) cases, as well a critical issue in dependency cases for both children and parents. Courts are challenged when working with people with poor self-regulation, as the services and supports they require need to take this into account and be focused on individual needs.
With guidance and more flexibility in the manner in which the legal system responds to the challenges of FASD, coupled with more informed and available support services, the quality of life for those living with FASD and their communities can be improved.
“FASD may be a hidden factor in many cases that come before juvenile and family courts and judges have the ability to identify common signs, make appropriate orders for services, and even prevent future children from being affected by engaging with parents in a meaningful way,” said Crystal Duarte, MPA, NCJFCJ’s director of coordinated policy and practice.
To get a digital copy of the guide, visit http://www.ncjfcj.org/FASD-Guide.
About the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges (NCJFCJ):
Founded in 1937, the Reno, Nev.-based National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, is the nation’s oldest judicial membership organization and focused on improving the effectiveness of our nation’s juvenile and family courts. A leader in continuing education opportunities, research, and policy development in the field of juvenile and family justice, the 2,000-member organization is unique in providing practice-based resources to jurisdictions and communities nationwide.
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