If you're looking for the Minnesota Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (MOFAS) you have come to the right place. We have some exciting news about our organization. We have a new name! MOFAS has officially been renamed Proof Alliance. Our mission remains the same: to prevent prenatal alcohol exposure and to improve the quality of life for people living with fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD).
We now have the proof that prenatal alcohol exposure is a leading cause of brain injury in children. We have the proof that FASD is 100% preventable and people living with an FASD can reach 100% of their potential.
We seek to build powerful alliances with people with an FASD, their families, legislators, experts in the field, new partners, and community members to bring awareness, research, and services to this field.
Proof Alliance is rebranding, expanding, and we're moving! We have a new logo, website, and prevention campaign to help change the norms around drinking during pregnancy. And in May 2019 we will be moving to a stand-alone building. Proof Alliance commits to the people of Minnesota and we will continue to develop transformative programs to help Minnesotans impacted by FASD.
By: Mary Weaver, MOFAS Northwest Area Family Resource Coordinator
This blog is part of a three part series. Read Part 1.
Fast forward several years. In the interim, I had another child (no drinking during that pregnancy!) and got divorced. I eventually met a wonderful man and we got married. I had had several ectopic pregnancies during my first marriage and ultimately had a hysterectomy, so I could no longer biologically have children but Mike and I desired to add to our family. We connected with a fantastic private adoption agency, and, in time, we were matched with two siblings.
My children’s story is complicated. I’ll try to make it as simple as possible (which may not happen, so I’ll apologize now). First the cast of players: We’ll say “Emily” is their birth mother and “Ben” is their birth father. “Emily” and “Ben” produced four children together. The two oldest, Jacob and Jackie, are what folks jokingly call “Irish twins.” They’re less than a year apart in age. Sometime around the age of 1 and 2, “Emily” and “Ben’s” parental rights were terminated and they were placed in foster care. Next there is “Stephanie.” “Stephanie” was, to my knowledge, removed from “Emily” at birth and was placed with an adoptive family. A few months after “Stephanie” was placed, that family learned that Jake and Jackie were in foster care and had them join their family. They lived there for about 10 months. One day, the social workers received a call asking Jake and Jackie be removed from this preadoptive home. No real explanation, just take them away. The family kept “Stephanie” and quickly moved to finalize their adoption of her. It was when Jake and Jackie were back in foster care that we were matched as a potential home.
When we first learned of Jake and Jackie, we truly struggled with the idea of separating them from “Stephanie.” We railed against the social workers about splitting siblings and had many discussions about what truly was in everyone’s best interests. And before anyone gets up in arms and bringing up many of the same arguments that we’ve had, please know that this situation was about as ugly as one could face for social workers. They were faced with an impossible situation and I have apologized to them for the additional stress and aggravation we caused as they worked through what should be done. The final decision was “Stephanie” stayed with and was adopted by the only family she had ever known. Jake and Jackie were placed back into the foster care system (fortunately staying with their original foster parents) and were matched with us. (I’ll talk more about “Stephanie” in another post at another time.)
Back to “Emily” and “Ben.” After the birth of “Stephanie,” “Emily” quickly was pregnant again. Max was born less than a year after “Stephanie.” Some amazing and wonderful services were put in place to assist “Emily,” including family foster care. She seemed to be doing well, following the programs, and learning how to parent. But addiction, low self-esteem, mental health issues, and myriad other things complicated her success.
By the time Jake and Jackie came to live with us, “Emily” was struggling with Max. She was starting to fall back into familiar patterns and the possibility of having her parental rights terminated were increasing. The social workers asked us about potentially placing Max with us. Of course, we agreed. Three weeks after Jake and Jackie joined us, Max came to our home. Jake and Jackie were 5 and 4 years old; Max was 10 months.
Over the next several months, I got to meet “Emily.” Because her parental rights were not terminated, she had input into what and where Max would be (or at least the social workers allowed “Emily” to feel she had input). Having already suffered the pain of having her rights terminated on three children due to substance use and abuse and child neglect, no one wanted her to feel completely stripped of anything more.
I started out feeling like many folks do when it comes to birth parents who have lost their parental rights: Mad. Frustrated. Disappointed with the system. Disgusted with so-called parents who would allow such harm, neglect, and suffering into the lives of their children. The whole “I know that I would never do that.” But I did, which I conveniently brushed aside in my head, justifying my past behaviors while consoling myself that it wasn’t intentional. I was self-righteous, opinionated, and vocal. (Disclaimer: I will readily admit I can still be all of those things, about certain topics. I have, however, changed my views regarding birth parents.)
Guess what? “Emily” never intended to harm or put her children at risk, either. “Emily” was a child of her environment. She was thrust into this world with parents who didn’t have a clue how to parent, who struggled with their own mental illness and addictions. She had basically been on her own since a young teen, fighting her way to survival, battling through life on limited education, limited support. She latched onto “Ben,” who was older and gave the air of protection. Together they stumbled down a path of drugs and alcohol, arrests and fights, and aimlessly produced four children who they neither had the skills nor the maturity to handle. They couldn’t maintain their own individual lives, much less those of children.
“Emily” loves her children. She always has. She always will. Can “Emily” parent? Probably not, even years later. “Emily” was and is a victim to this day. She started out with the short stick and due to life circumstances and poor choices, she keeps getting that short stick. To me, it’s really the whole “chicken and the egg” analogy: it’s a vicious cycle that she’s in and having an extremely difficult time fighting her way out.