A Letter From Aaron's Father

Most parents of children with with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) report that they see inappropriate sexual behaviors in their children. Often they get into trouble with the law before they reach adulthood. And most of the time they do not understand the seriousness of their actions. And many times parents do not realize how devastating the consequences can be. Laws vary from state to state. If you live in the U.S., it would be wise to contact your local state Protection & Advocacy agency to find out what the legal consequences could be if your child is ever prosecuted for sexual asault. Here is where to find your local P&A: http://www.acf.dhhs.gov/programs/add/states/p&a.htm Some states have laws that can be very troublesome for our children, as you will see in this dad's letter:

We just crossed a milestone in Aaron's (17, FAS/FAE) situation. I have written some of what had happened with him in the past, but the short review is that about 3 years ago he got into problems with the legal system for some inappropriate sexual behavior with younger kids.

What happened was considered molesting, when in reality (for Aaron) he was acting very age-appropriate for where he was mentally and emotionally but not chronologically. At the time, he was chronologically 14, but on a practical level, closer to 6 or 7.

We did what we thought was right, and took it to the legal system when it happened, and we were given what turned into advice from hell. With Aaron's lack of judgement and understanding, we were told it would best if he were to be deemed not competent in the eyes of the law; this was supposed to open some doors for treatment. What we did not know until the day of court was that if deemed not competent, the law requires the individual be committed to a mental institution (Idaho law). He was taken directly from court and placed in a hospital (this is MONTHS after the actual incident).

Aaron did not need the services of a mental institution. We knew it, and the judge knew it, but we were powerless under the law. So, he was temporarily put in a local facility pending placement in a state institution. At the time, our Health and Welfare office supported this placement.

We hired an attorney, and were able to get him released to the home again by pressuring Health and Welfare to take jurisdiction (which they could) and then place him back in the home (which they had the legal ability to do) with certain retrictions and conditions dictated by the court. One of the conditions was adult supervision 24/7. This can be a real challenge to provide, but we did.

To make a really long story a little shorter, we worked with our attorney and Health and Welfare to prove we could provide a better enviornment for Aaron than could be provided by the state hospital.

About 2 months ago, some do-gooder in the legal system decided this case needed to be re-opened since the provision to put Aaron in mental facility had not happened. So... Back to court again. Having done what we could, we had our attorney handle this for us. This time, the judge acted very fairly. After listening to the state prosecutor insisting Aaron had to be committed, all the evidence was presented that what was in place was working. The judge, after hearing it all, and having been involved in some of the provisions we had set up with Health and Welfare to provide a good environment, counselling, etc... dismissed the charges in the interest of justice. I must be fair with Health and Welfare here. In the past couple of years we have managed to change their perspective as well, and when this came to a close, they were very supportive of our side.

Here is the problem.... the laws, as currently written, do not address someone who is not competent due to retardation, only mental illness. And, as we know, these are not the same. The law assumes many cases of mental illness can be cured, and does not take into account that FAS in not curable. So, I guess the next step is to try to lobby to get the laws changed so this nightmare does not need to be repeated for someone else. It may take years, but this needs to be done to protect these kids from unfair treatment under the laws that do not understand their true handicap.

Rockwell Smith

Sexual Behaviors
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