Wellness | Mental Health, Physical Health
Community Connections | Inclusion, Indigenous Peoples, Children And Youth

Calgary Fetal Alcohol Network: An Alberta Society

We work to reduce the incidence of fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) and to ensure people affected by FASD are able to live to their best potential.

Our Story

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.

Our Impact

What We Do

We believe people with FASD will thrive in a community that is aware and knowledgeable and encourages a healthy response to FASD issues. We are proud to work together with our members, funded agencies and other community systems and service partners  to respond to the strengths and challenges of individuals, families, caregivers and communities impacted by FASD across the lifespan.

Through the wonderful donors and funders who support our work, we are:

  • Increasing the capacity of community services to help children, youth and adults with FASD succeed in areas such as education, housing, justice and health through our Best Practices in FASD Interventions training. In 2016-17, we trained 863 professionals across 6 sectors to help them better serve individuals who may have FASD that they encounter in their front line work. This training was also offered at MRU’s Nursing program, U of C’s Nursing and Homelessness Certificate programs, and Bow Valley College’s Addictions Studies and Aboriginal Mental Health programs.
  • Supporting frontline services through grant stewardship delivering 15 programs that work with over 1100 individuals and families with FASD each year and help reduce the incidence of FASD. Clients of CFAN-funded agencies are engaged in high-quality programs that help stabilize families and support each person – from child to adult – to reach for their potential in education, physical and mental health, employment, safety, and being full members of their communities.
  • Engaging the Calgary and area community in collective impact initiatives to identify priority issues and opportunities for advocacy, research, prevention, and improving access to services. We have completed a study into best practices for supporting individuals with FASD across the lifespan and are just beginning research into the factors that influence woment to continue to consume alcohol despite knowing they are pregnant. This research will help us understand better how to support alcohol-free pregnancies and prevent FASD.
  • Raising awareness about FASD misperceptions, reducing stigma, and promoting FASD prevention. In 2016-17, we trained 920 professionals in our Prevention Conversation workshops across 7 sectors. Participants learn how to engage women in non-judgmental and supportive conversations on alcohol and pregnancy. The training has also been included as part of MRU’s School of Nursing curriculum and inclusion in the Midwifery program is under discussion.

Our Programs

How We Do It

CFAN works through two pillars of practice: service delivery and collective impact.

1. Service delivery

Network Resource Worker – Individuals, families and caregivers addressing the needs of someone with an FASD often require information, supports and services across many systems, such as health, education, employment or justice. Often, supports and services in these areas have waitlists, or paths to connecting with supports and services are complex and confusing. Sometimes, only short-term assistance is needed, such as help completing a form. Professionals with clients who have FASD may need advice on what kinds of community services there are, or on how best to work with someone with FASD. The Network Resource Worker helps in all these areas through offering information, referrals, system navigation, short-term supports, and advocacy.

Best Practices in FASD Interventions Training – Because of the nature of brain injury due to pre-natal alcohol exposure, the typical practices of systems such as education, justice, housing, health and employment often throw up barriers for people with FASD. CFAN has done research into best practices for supporting someone with FASD to succeed. We offer training to professionals who may encounter individuals with FASD in their day-to-day work, tailored to the organization’s needs and time frame, helping frontline workers understand how to recognize someone who may be affected by FASD and work with them from a strengths-based, supportive, and respectful perspective.

The Prevention Conversation Training – Exposure to alcohol in the womb is the cause of FASD, but there is a lot of mixed messaging in our society about pregnancy and alcohol consumption. There is no proven safe level or timing of consumption, so no alcohol during the entire pregnancy is the best policy. However, often doctors and other professionals are reluctant to speak with women about this topic. The Prevention Conversation training teaches professionals and other supportive audiences how to hold short, motivational conversations with women to help broach the topic in a non-judgmental, non-threatening way. Through the Prevention Conversation, we aim to support women to have healthy pregnancies and healthy babies, reducing the incidence of FASD in our province.

Direct FASD Service Funding – CFAN is part of the Government of Alberta’s Cross-Ministry-Committee (CMC) FASD Initiative. Through the CMC, we steward over $2,000,000 in grants to 15 programs at 9 different agencies which offer direct supports to children, youth, adults and families/caregivers affected by FASD in Calgary and area.

2. Collective impact

CFAN’s membership helps determine our direction. Through membership directives, we convene

  • The FASD Collective Impact Group, which has 13 partners from a wide variety of systems and services. The shared purpose of the FASD Collective is to improve outcomes and community conditions for individuals and families potentially or directly impacted by FASD.
  • The Caregiver Advisory Committee, which provides opportunities for parents and caregivers of individuals with FASD to assess, inform, and provide input into the priorities and strategies of the Calgary FASD network.
  • The Coordinated Access Standing Committee, which is exploring new ways to address access to service issues, waiting lists, system navigation and referral.
  • The Alcohol and Pregnancy Working Group, which is conducting research on understanding the factors contributing to maternal alcohol consumption after pregnancy recognition.

As well, CFAN participates on a wide variety of community tables, such as the Aboriginal Standing Committee on Homelessness and Housing, the Bow Valley College FASD Education Certificate Advisory Committee, The Calgary Domestic Violence Collective, Indigenous Community Table FASD and Justice Working Group, and Mental Health inter-agency meetings.

Our Requests

What You Can Do

Donate: CFAN is a small agency with big impact! Your donations, large or small, are dedicated to improving the lives of children, youth, adults with FASD and their families and caregivers through our training and advocacy initiatives, direct FASD supports, innovative research and projects, and FASD awareness and education.

To donate to CFAN, go to http://www.mycfan.ca/donate/ or call 403-249-7215.

Become a member: As a member, you contribute to CFAN’s direction in the FASD sector. We count on members to help us determine priorities, understand what innovations are needed, participate in our working groups, and to give a larger voice to our advocacy on behalf of FASD issues.

Membership is free! To become a member, go to http://www.mycfan.ca/become-a-member/ or call 403-249-7215.

Spread the word-FASD Day: At 9:09 on September 9 (the ninth day of the ninth month) – a time inspired by the nine months of pregnancy – people across the world gather to celebrate the successes of families and individuals affected by FASD.

Stay Connected


Jamilah Edwards

Calgary Fetal Alcohol Network: An Alberta Society

403.249.1725 ext. 202

Charitable Number: 829202399RR0001

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