In The News: Halton event helps break down barriers between police and youth with FASD


OAKEDIT – HALTON FASD Eleven youth with Fetal Alcohol Spectum Disorder (FASD), police and volunteers strike a pose following a tour of the new police headquarters. The event was an initiative of Halton REACH for IT, a Halton FASD program, providing recreational outings for children and their families living with FASD. It is an “adapted program providing a high level of supervision, safety and learning for the participants.” – Halton FASD/Photo


For Milton youth probation officer, Laurie Ferguson, and Halton police officers like Ryan Smith, it’s all about the kids; kids who through no fault of their own, fail to understand cause and consequence.

Statistics show that youth with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) — permanent brain damage as a result of prenatal exposure to alcohol — have a greater chance of being involved in the criminal justice system because of impaired cognitive function, leading to behavioural and learning difficulties.

One of the ways to mitigate the negativity of those interactions and even prevent them, is to build a trusting relationship with police, an objective of Halton REACH for IT, an initiative of the Halton FASD Parent Working Group.

“It is important to break down barriers between police and youth living with FASD,” said Const. Smith, a member of the Halton FASD Parent Working Group, along with Ferguson, Nelson Youth Centre and Elizabeth Fry Society representatives, as well as parents.

“We can act as a resource for families and organizations who deal with FASD youth. It is also important to humanize the officers as it assists with rapport in the event of interactions with these youth.”

One such REACH for IT event was an early December tour of the new police headquarters on Bronte Road where 11 FASD youth were matched one on one with police officers in an effort to “let them know that the police are human beings too and are here to support them and their families,” said Smith.

These events take a lot of planning to ensure they are FASD friendly and tailored for success, said Ferguson, a longtime employee of the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services, Halton Youth Services.

“These children/youth have brain damage; they need structure, support and supervision to be successful. It is not about changing the youth; it’s about changing our approach and expectations and changing the environment, looking at things through an FASD lens,” she said.

“To see these kids in an environment where they feel safe and are doing ‘kids-like events’ is so amazing, refreshing and rewarding.”

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