Why We Exist
Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) is the most common developmental disorder in Canada. It is permanent, complex, most often invisible and is one of the most stigmatised and misunderstood disorders in our society. They are among the most vulnerable, but people with FASD also have many strengths: with the right knowledge and support within their communities, individuals with FASD can lead healthy, fulfilling lives.
FASD is a result of brain injury incurred by a fetus as a result of exposure to alcohol in the womb. From childhood through old age, individuals with FASD encounter barriers in everything they undertake in our society, from health care and education, to employment and housing. CFAN started as a grassroots movement over 15 years ago, founded by individuals who realized this complex disorder couldn’t be addressed by any one family, organization, service or system. We’ve grown into a registered charity that focuses on collaboration and collective impact with the aim to build a network of support and respect that allows children, youth, and adults to thrive in a society that understands their world.
We build that network in big ways through program funding and community-building and also in other ways that seem small, but mean so much. Our bursary program, The Empowerment Fund, for example, provides a big boost to individuals with FASD or their families and caregivers throughout the year. Natalie, a young woman with FASD who is a single mom with a toddler, needed to move out of her apartment this summer. Natalie is on AISH, has no vehicle and no friends with trucks who could help her move. She was very afraid she’d have to use her grocery money for the month to pay for a moving company to relocate her. However, a friend helped her apply to CFAN for The Empowerment Fund bursary, which paid most of the costs of a moving truck. This was a huge relief for her and helped make sure she and her daughter didn’t go hungry.
At the same time as we try to ensure individuals with FASD get the supports they need, we also work to help our communities know FASD is preventable. We aim to reduce its incidence through training and education – by getting the message out that no alcohol during pregnancy is best and by supporting women to have healthy, alcohol-free pregnancies.