The following letter was written in response to the news report of the stabbing death of a teenager with FASD, Chris Surbey, son of Val and Vince Surbey, FASD community leaders in Winnipeg.


June 7, 2005

Dear Editor,

On Monday morning I woke up at the usual time. It was a clear bright morning here in Indiana. Then I walked downstairs and opened my e-mail box just like every morning. That’s when the day stopped being just like every other day and the harsh reality of the fate of yet another high functioning child, prenatally exposed to alcohol was told.

In my inbox there was a note from Val Surbey with the subject line, “It’s happened”. That’s how Val told a group of woman from the United States and Canada that her seventeen year old son, Chris, was dead. A victim of a brutal stabbing, dying on the streets of Winnipeg. Across the United States and Canada women, bonded by the mere fact that we all love and are raising children with FASD began the grieving process with our sister, Val and her husband Vince.

You may think it odd that the subject line read, “It’s Happened”. In all truth, it seems innocent enough. But to those of us who are the parents or caretakers of high functioning FASD children we understood those two words. We understood the impact of two simple words. We all live with the knowledge that what happened to Chris could happen to our children. After speaking or corresponding with two of the women the words “Only by the grace of God…….” have been used. Because it is only by God’s Grace that Jered, Randy, Tyrone, Sam, Orville, Ashley, Paul, Jake, Zack, and so many others are still alive. While some of them are safe now, we live with the knowledge that we may be the next mother to listen to a law enforcement officer tell us our child is dead.

Due to the laws regulating benefits and services available to these children, it will happen again. Without proper services, treatment programs, residential homes for children like Chris, this will happen again. Until social workers, health care providers, legislators recognize that there is a whole population of adults that are falling through the cracks, this will happen again. These young people are not adults. They are wonderful at portraying themselves as capable, responsible human beings but they aren’t. They lack impulse control, cause & effect thinking. They have poor social skills. They often end up in prisons, homeless shelters or on the streets. They more often than not they end up drug or alcohol addicted.

Early Monday morning, Chris Surbey became every woman or man who loves a FASD child’s worse nightmare. He died on the streets, surrounded by strangers and miles away from home. His family is devastated. All the work they put in to keeping his safe, the endless meetings, case conferences, arguments with government agencies about what was best for Chris has ended. But the battle isn’t over. Along with Surbey’s, countless numbers of others will continue to push in the fight against women drinking while pregnant, educating people to the needs of children exposed to alcohol, writing letters to law makers to pass legislation to protect these children.

The world lost a lot Monday morning. But the real loss started almost 18 years ago when his birth mother took that first drink while pregnant.


Teresa A. Sipe

Decatur, Indiana, U.S.A.


Chris Surbey on FASSTARS

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