This story is part of our national organization NOFAS’ Social Work Stories campaign. This NOFAS campaign is in partnership with the National Association of Social Workers (NASW).
Yolanda Ross, LMSW, LCDC is a licensed social worker and the mother of a child living with FASD. She writes,
“Social workers play an important role in providing empathy and compassion to women who are mothers to individuals living with a FASD.”
Yolanda Ross, LMSW, LCDC
Yolanda Ross is a social worker and the mother of a child living with FASD. She is in recovery. She wrote the following story:
My name is Yolanda Ross and I am a grateful recovering alcoholic and addict. I am also a Licensed Masters Social Worker (LMSW) and a Licensed Chemical Dependency Counselor (LCDC). But most importantly, I am the mother of a beautiful daughter named Hannah Symome Ross, who is living with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS).
From my personal experience, I was clueless about FASD. When Hannah was diagnosed, I had a team of individuals through the KINDER clinic who helped me and my family understand the complex issues related to FAS. One of the team members was a social worker who connected me with various services to help Hannah. Because of this social worker, I was educated on the various elements of FASD, resources in the form of occupational, speech, and psychical therapy. Additionally, throughout Hannah’s life, social workers have been a major part of helping my daughter continue to receive the necessary intervention services to help her thrive into the wonderful young adult she is today.
According to the National Association of Social Workers (NASW), alcohol use during pregnancy is a leading preventable cause of birth defects and intellectual and neurodevelopmental disabilities. Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD)—the general term that encompasses the range of life-long adverse cognitive, behavioral and physical effects associated with prenatal alcohol exposure—affects up to 1 in 20 children in the U.S. and is disproportionately present among youth in foster care and juvenile justice systems. Due to this growing epidemic, it is prevalent that social workers continue to take an active lead role in addressing this prevalence of FASD. As a LMSW and a mother to a young adult living with FAS, I am an advocate in making sure my daughter has access to the necessary resources that can help her live her life to the fullest.
Many individuals living with a FASD may encounter many challenges and are disproportionately not accurately represented within our systems of care. Then there is the stigma attached to the mother who may have used alcohol and/or drugs during the pregnancy, which can also bring about shame and derision by others. Social workers play an important role in providing empathy and compassion to women who are mothers to individuals living with a FASD, as well as provide valuable information about awareness and prevention to childbearing women.
According to NASW, Social workers can provide services in the form of screening women for alcohol use, perform evidence-based interventions to reduce risky alcohol use, and make referrals or deliver treatment for women who are problem drinkers. But most importantly, continue to treat the mother with dignity and respect, as well as the necessary support and services as early as possible.
As a mother raising a daughter living with FAS, and as a well-educated professional, I am honored and pleased to be a part of this movement to educate society about this prevalent matter. I honestly do believe not enough is being address about FASD because of the shame and stigma attached to issue. Many women and mothers are reluctant to say that they have used any substance during their pregnancy, and as a result, many children fall through the cracks of the system of care. I am willing to break down this barrier to speak my truth in order the help raise awareness about FASD. Today, I, Yolanda Ross, is a grateful recovery alcoholic and addict and I am raising a daughter living with FAS.