Monae Johnson has been parenting children with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder for the past 16 years, but the FASD Parenting 101 class at Catholic Social Services she attended recently was still a great reminder that there’s always something new to learn, or relearn, about FASD and its many challenges.
“For me, it’s been a great refresher course,” Monae said. “Nora has so much information to share that I’ll want to go to it again, too. And the group discussions with other parents is always very helpful. I heard things that I knew, but had sort of forgotten about over time.”
Nora Boesem, the Family Services Director at Catholic Social Services, offers two parenting support and education classes (FASD 101 and FASD 102) for parents, grandparents and caregivers of children with FASD. Boesem is a trained social worker and adoption specialist. But she’s also a FASD expert, the adoptive mother of 11 children who all have a diagnosis of FASD, and an advocate who educates about FASD issues at her annual FASD conference.
(Contact Nora Boesem at 605-348-6086 to register for the next FASD Parenting Class)
For people who are new to caregiving children or adults with FASD, the 6-week FASD 101 class offers a guide through its challenges and milestones. It educates parents about FASD and introduces them to practical tips, online resources, support networks, proven ideas and new perspectives for coping with life with FASD. FASD 102 is an 8-week follow-up class where participants learn to navigate systems in their child’s life (legal, educational, healthcare and community) while expanding their parenting arsenal to guide their child into adulthood.
“Parenting children with FASD is hard. It’s a totally different world. And it’s a non-stop world,” says Monae. “The classes tell you that instead of getting frustrated, these things might help. FASD is a lot to think about continuously. For me, Nora’s classes helped me remember that.”
Monae and her former husband had three children before adopting their 16-year-old twins Shawn and Shawntel when they were 10 months old. They adopted Vivian, 11, when she was 5 weeks old. Shawn and Shawntel were born to a mother who drank heavily during her pregnancy and who neglected, malnourished and abandoned the children. They got an FASD diagnosis later, but Monae knew from Day One that this parenting experience was going to be very different from her biological children.
“The way they ate, the way they slept, what they did, what they didn’t do. It was all different,” she said. “But the minute you get them into your home, they become yours.”
At 16, her twins are beginning their journey into adulthood. “We’re just beginning to figure that all out,” Monae said.