“A network of community support outside of jail is needed, as without it persons with FAS will not be able to navigate normal societal rules. Persons with FAS do best with structure, black and white rules and consistency - knowledgeable persons in this field refer to the concept of the ‘external brain’. (Byrne, 2002, p. 4).

Even with best efforts to provide a supportive environment in the correctional context, transitioning from institution to community can be quite challenging for an individual with FASD

Just as individuals with FASD require support and accommodation to adjust and function effectively within correctional institutions, the same principles of intervention -structure, consistency, brevity, variety, and persistence – are necessary for successful community reintegration.

Community release can be a stressful time for offenders.  Individuals are often uncertain as to where they will live; what the people living and working there will be like; what the rules are; how much money they will have to live on; and so on.  Engaging in pre-release planning to discover and answer these questions is crucial to facilitating the transition from institution to community.  Connecting the individual with the community correctional professional(s) assigned to supervise their release prior to leaving the institution may help reduce the anxiety associated with venturing into the unknown.  These community correctional professionals (most often parole officers or probation officers), like their institutional counterparts, should have a good understanding of the challenges and characteristics associated with FASD as well as the recommended interventions and strategies. 

The role of the community parole or probation officer is especially important in the first weeks and months of the release of an individual with FASD.  Relationship-building and close monitoring is crucial to identify and address any emerging issues of concern quickly.  The community parole or probation officer serves as the FASD-affected individual’s advocate; connecting the individual with safe and affordable housing, with employment or other meaningful and structured activity, to an individual or group that will provide support on an on-going basis.

One 2007 report, in the context of considerations to be taken into account during sentencing, elaborates on the concept of the “external brain” referenced above and provides the following suggestions for individuals living with FASD who are being released to their community:

  1. Living in a group home or facility with an established regimen (when to get up, eat, etc.).
  2. A very structured job. Indeed one of the values of even part time employment is that it gives someone with FASD something that they must do every day.
  3. A daily schedule created in collaboration with the individual and overseen by a parent, advocate, sponsor, or other party.
  4. Involvement in frequently scheduled treatment programs such as classes in anger management, sexual deviancy treatment, drug testing, drug treatment, Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meetings, family counselling, group therapy and recreational groups.

Another 2003 report promotes these recommendations to contribute to continuity of care and support in the community, which have been cited in other works:

  • Working out an agreement for money management
  • Securing safe, affordable housing or a subsidized residential placement
  • Providing in-home support to help the individual live as independently as possible
  • Teaching and modelling parenting skills if the individual has children
  • Referring the individual for specialized vocational training and/or job placements
  • Ensuring medical care
  • Arranging for a case manager to help the individual with FASD and their families access necessary services
  • Organizing drug and alcohol treatment for the individual, if needed
  • Serving as an advocate to ensure recommendations are implemented
  • Acknowledging the individual’s limitations, strengths and skills
  • Accepting  the FASD-impacted individual’s “world”

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