November 8, 2006

The Honorable Patty Murray:

Thank you for supporting S 1722 the Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder Research, Prevention and Services Act. Eight years ago I adopted a beautiful African American child. His name is Joshua, and he was eight years old when we met. He is now just five months shy of his 18th birthday, and what should be his liberation into the world of adult life and responsibilities.

Josh is handsome, and can be a charming, well-mannered young man. He has dreams of living in an apartment on his own, buying and driving a car, dating, and someday having a wife and family. For Josh, these dreams will not become a reality. Although he looks normal, my son has an invisible disability; it is Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder.

No one in my pre-adoption parenting classes talked about Fetal Alcohol Syndrome or Effect, or the challenges that we would face as a result of his disability. Our adoption caseworker did not tell us that his fetal exposure to alcohol had caused him permanent brain damage. I did not know that he would need supervision and support for the rest of his life.

We have been all over the “system” looking for help for Joshua. We have searched for an accurate diagnosis, to explain his behaviors, but have not been able to get a formal evaluation and FASD diagnosis. 

Josh can’t follow the rules well enough to stay in class or hold a summer job. He has difficulty understanding basic math, and has no logical reasoning or abstract thinking skills. Josh has very poor impulse control, which has caused him to make choices that put him in danger and at risk. 

I am very apprehensive about his approaching 18th birthday. His IQ is too high for him to qualify for special services, but he is not capable of independent living. Josh needs an “external brain” to supervise his actions and choices, so that he does not end up hurt, in prison, or dead. I urge you to help pass this important legislation that will help adults and children, like Joshua, get the support services they so desperately need.