Grace grew up in a family bar in Ireland, so saw plenty of drinking growing up. But she never heard of FASD, despite 18 years as a social worker in Ireland, England and Canada. It wasn’t until she and her husband David as a childless couple started fostering in 1999, and jumped into the deep end of parenting, that they came across FASD, and learned moment to moment, stroke by stroke, what works and what doesn’t!
Foster parenting turned out to be the an intense, stimulating, funny, frustrating, and often exhausting experience, and much was learned from the children themselves, who had already been in multiple placements. One example was when Grace and David left one evening for a parenting course, her foster son commented: “You don’t need to go on a parenting course. Hell, we’ve taught you all you know!” So true!
A key learning for Grace was the value of using practical tools to teach complex topics, whether it was appropriate behaviours, social rules, attachment, identity, trauma etc. Grace has always loved the therapeutic world, and being a visual thinker, she was able to use this combo to create tools that translated complex into concrete concepts, that were easier for children to understand. These include making life books, tools to teach social behaviour, and strategies to handle stress, the child’s and the caregiver.
Grace was hired in 2000 as the social work co-ordinator for a multi disciplinary FASD assessment and diagnostic team in Victoria, a three year pilot, which assessed 20 adult women for FASD.
Grace believes from experience that emotional support and regular breaks are crucial for parents of children with FASD, to restore spent energy reserves. Grace and David relied on the solid respite system they created for regular breaks, and Grace used a network of support to get emotional support. Without these, she feels the caregiver, no matter how skilled, is in danger of burnout.
You can also contact Grace for one-on-one support for issues related to raising children with FASD.