Research evaluating the experiences of birth and adoptive parents raising children with a fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) is needed to ascertain facilitating factors and barriers to successful family functioning. Qualitative approaches to parents’ experiences can help us better understand in what ways families need support and can also be used to guide quantitative research in this area.
The present study is a qualitative, descriptive investigation of parents’ experiences raising children with FASD in an Alberta city and environs.
Eleven participants, consisting of biological (3), adoptive (7), and foster (1) parents were interviewed using an unstructured format in order to enable them to share their “as-is” experience. A phenomenological-hermeneutic approach and thematic analysis was used to analyze and organize the data into themes.
Nine central themes were derived from the interviews: 1) something’s not right; 2) receiving a diagnosis; 3) attitudes toward birth parents; 4) living in a war zone; 5) understanding my child; 6) getting support; 7) re-defining success; 8) lifelong parenting; and 9) my child’s gifts. Sub-themes were derived from several of these central themes. Descriptions of central and sub-themes are provided as data from each are presented.
By better understanding parents’ experiences, family members, teachers, professionals, support personnel, and the community can better support parents of children with FASD. This support is needed in order to promote stable environments for families raising children with FASD, which has been identified as a critical protective factor to promote lifelong successes for those living with the disorder.
Key Words: Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD), parenting, qualitative research