Message from the Editor

Judge J. Dean LewisWinter 2013

J. Dean Lewis, Judge (retired)
Former Member, National CASA Association Board of Trustees
Past President, National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges
 

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This issue of The Judges’ Page addresses fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) in children, youth and adults involved in the court system. Access to justice for all is imperative. Early identification of FASD in children, youth and adults in conjunction with referral to appropriate resources are critical steps to successful case outcomes. Unfortunately, the parents of the children and youth are sometimes themselves affected by FASD and involved in the adult criminal justice system. For that reason, this issue of The Judges’ Page includes articles relating to parties to dependency proceedings involved in multiple court systems.

The American Bar Association passed a resolution in August 2012 calling for training on FASD for those who work in the courts. The ABA Commission on Youth at Risk sponsored the resolution developed by the ABA Center on Children and the Law (see ABA director Howard Davidson's article in this issue). The resolution also encourages collaboration with the medical and mental health communities and urges all levels of government to reflect in their laws and policies the serious effects of prenatal alcohol exposure and address the serious disabilities created by FASD.

Awareness of FASD and its impact on court involved children, youth and their parents has increased over the past 20 years as medical research has become more available. The addition of a new psychiatric category to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) should assist those working in the criminal justice system and the child welfare system to respond more effectively to those with FASD.

Thank you to Kathryn Kelly for securing the articles in this issue. Kathryn serves as the project director of the FASD Legal Issues Resource Center at the University of Washington Fetal Alcohol and Drug Unit in Seattle, WA. Kathryn reached out to our neighbors in Canada who have instituted some innovative FASD programs and we appreciate their international perspective. And thank you to the authors for sharing their expertise. They have approached this topic from multiple directions and shared their recommendations. Those of us at The Judges’ Page are grateful for their contributions and believe these articles will provide special insight and guidance for decision makers.

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