We are not doing enough for children with neuro-disabilities



foetal alcohol syndrome disorder, child protection, child welfare, youth justice


I recently made a submission to the Abuse in Care: Royal Commission of Inquiry on behalf of a young whānau-member survivor who is autistic and lives with Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD), Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and mental health issues. I made that submission also because I am a social worker and a staunch advocate for those who live with neuro- disabilities; many of them have experienced early removal from birth families, as well as lifelong rejection and misunderstanding by systems of education, health, care and justice. In my submission, I discussed how today’s current care and justice systems cause as much harm to children and whānau as historic ones. In my recent Reimagining Social Work blog (Gibbs, 2022), I highlighted the harm to children caused specifically by current, residence-based interventions in youth justice, but in this piece, I also want to highlight how multiple aspects of both current care and protection, and youth justice provision harm our children with neuro-disabilities. In a future, research-based article, I will highlight specific findings on best practices for working in the justice space for youth living with FASD (in preparation).


Badry, D., & Choate, P. (2015). Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder: A disability in need of social work education, knowledge and practice. Social Work and Social Sciences Review, 17(3), 20–32.

FASD Coalition. (n.d.). Ten brain domains (functions) affected by FASD. [Fact sheet]. https://www. fasdcoalition.ca/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/Ten-Brain- Domains.pdf

FASD Working Group. (2016). Taking action on fetal alcohol spectrum disorder: 2016–2019: An action plan. Ministry of Health. https://www.health.govt.nz/publication/taking- action-fetal-alcohol-spectrum-disorder-2016-2019- action-plan

Gibbs, A. (2022, March 15). I am not a bystander.... abuse in care still continues: It’s not just in the past. Reimagining Social Work. https://reimaginingsocialwork. nz/2022/03/15/i-am-not-a-bystander-abuse-in-care-still- continues-its-not-just-in-the-past/

Gilbert, D., Mukerherjee, R., Kassam, N., & Cook, P. (2021). Exploring the experiences of social workers in working with children suspected to have fetal alcohol spectrum disorders. Adoption & Fostering, 45(2), 155–172. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/ full/10.1177/03085759211011735

Human Rights Commission. (2021). Report of the Disability Rights Commissioner and Children’s Commissioner to the Prime Minister, FASD: A call to action. https://www.hrc.co.nz/files/6516/3815/0843/ FASD_Report.pdf

Lewis, J. (2022, March 16). Course covering children’s neuro-disabilities. Otago Daily Times. https://www.odt. co.nz/news/dunedin/health/course-covering-children’s- neuro-disabilities.

Reil, J., Lambie, I., Becroft, A., & Allen, R. (2022). How we fail children who offend and what to do about it: “A breakdown across the whole system”. The Michael and Suzanne Borrin Foundation, the New Zealand Law Foundation & the University of Auckland. https://www.lawfoundation.org.nz/wp-content/ uploads/2022/04/2018-45-28.Children-Who-Offend. Final-research-report-March2022.pdf

United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child. (2019). General comment No. 24 on children’s rights in juvenile justice. Para 28. CRC/C/GC/24 https://tbinternet.ohchr. org/Treaties/CRC/Shared%20Documents/1_Global/ CRC_C_GC_24_8968_E.docx

Wartnik, A. P., Anderson, L. G., & FitzGerald, A. J. (2021). Views from the bench: Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder in the courtroom. In N. Novick Brown (Ed.), Evaluating fetal alcohol spectrum disorders in the forensic context (pp. 465-493). Springer. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3- 030-73628-6_18




How to Cite

Gibbs, A. (2022). We are not doing enough for children with neuro-disabilities. Aotearoa New Zealand Social Work, 34(2), 90–93. Retrieved from https://anzswjournal.nz/anzsw/article/view/956