Charity calls for dedicated hubs for children affected by alcohol in the womb

Pregnant woman holds wine glass Credit: PA Archive/PA Images

Children and young people living with a brain condition caused by exposure to alcohol in the womb should have dedicated support, a charity has said.

Adoption UK said every child entering the care system must be screened for foetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) and urged each nation in the UK to invest in their welfare.

Their call comes on International FASD Awareness Day and a year after a report found a quarter of adopted children are diagnosed with or suspected of having the condition.

The charity’s report, released in September 2020, also found 55% of families polled waited at least two years for their child to be diagnosed with the disorder.

This year, the charity said it is calling on the Stormont executive in Northern Ireland, the Welsh Government and Westminster to replicate the success of the FASD hub in Scotland.

It is also calling on the Scottish Government to commit to the long-term funding of its hub.

Sue Armstrong Brown, chief executive of Adoption UK, said: “Great strides have been made in Scotland around FASD but we’ve still a long way to go to ensure individuals with FASD and their families receive the support they so urgently need.

“Every child entering the care system must be screened for FASD.”

Ruth Cliff, who lives in Bedfordshire, has been unable to get an FASD assessment for her son, who she adopted 16 years ago, the charity said.

She said trying to find the right support for him “has completely taken over my life” and added that a “one-stop-shop” to address this would be “life-changing”.

Ms Cliff said: “We were referred to a paediatrician who told me they didn’t have the expertise to assess for FASD and there was no-one in our area who could do it either.

“I asked my local authority to fund an assessment via the Adoption Support Fund, but this was turned down.

“Finding the right support for my son has completely taken over my life, so to have a specialist one-stop-shop like the hub in Scotland, where people truly understand FASD, would be life-changing.”