The wrong words to the wrong tune
Today, as the Court of Appeal hear the facts about another FAS child, the realities of her day to day strengths and weaknesses and the impact that foetal exposure to probably large amounts of alcohol has had on her we begin another ordinary day here. Jiggy too has the ‘facial deformity’ that I heard described on the radio this morning (I prefer to think of it as rather a cute, elfin look that makes him look appealing even when he quite frankly isn’t being) He too has the learning difficulties that mean we can’t be in school, or scouts, or any other organised group. He shares the same outlook as the girl in the county somewhere in the North West has, that so many children, many adopted, also share, with or without that rather elusive and politically inflammatory FAS diagnosis.
I hope that Neil Sugarman’s case wins today. I hope that, on this particular battle ground, the needs of the foetally damaged child can be heard over the clamour raised by calls for the rights of the adult or the clattering of fears over the cost of reparation. I hope so because it is about time and because we have to start somewhere. I do however regret that we have had to use this particular battle ground, I regret that the lines of engagement are such that we need to use vocabulary around criminality. I know that there are very few other ways for us to raise issues and to be taken seriously and that, frankly, is the fault of a system that is the child of a long line of male dominated decisions with limited and simplistic views on the complexities of being female in a male world. I hope that one day we can find a way to raise these essentially female issues in a way that widens our understanding of the actions of all women.
The birth mother of an FAS child is not a criminal because she drank. She is very likely to be in a dark and lonely place of her own and in my experience working with birth mothers who lose children she is facing a trauma that I don’t have words to describe to you. The social worker who carries that child away and places her in a system that she knows is not good enough represents the next phase in our failure to nurture that child. The chain of foster carers who inadvertently weaken the child’s ability to love or be loved with each successive change and the adoptive mother who hopes that loving the child will be enough and then finds out that it simply isn’t. All of these women know about FAS and none of them have had any say in the formulation of the rules that will be applied today by a system made clumsy through lack of tools and understanding.
In the meantime I am a lone woman, with a damaged child, in a small and quiet corner of the country with no expectation of any sort of recognition of the issues that we face on an hourly, weekly and life time basis. I am glad that FAS is in the news today and I hope that the oddly quiet voice of the many thousands of children suffering real and actual damage is heard over the raucous barracking of the voices of adults claiming that a nebulous and ill thought through ‘right’ risks a slight denting. More than all of that I wish that we could start to talk in a meaningful and useful way about the impact of drugs and alcohol on unborn children.