FAS Community Resource Center
Teresa Kellerman, coordinator
7725 E. 33rd Street
Tucson, Arizona 85710
July 10, 2003
Mr. Fred Allison
Diocese of Tucson
111 So. Church Avenue
P.O. Box 31
Tucson, Arizona 85702
September 9th marks the 5th annual International FAS Awareness Day, when communities around the world raise awareness about Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. St. Augustine’s Cathedral holds the distinction of being the first church in Arizona to participate in the Bell Concordance, along with churches and clarions in 40 different countries. Last year’s ceremony at St. Augustine’s was a celebration of sound and spirit, with drum, bells, prayers, and stories shared by a birth mother of an adult child who is now in prison, and the adoptive mother of 5 alcohol affected children.
This year marks the 30th anniversary of the year FAS was identified for the first time in the U.S. by researchers in Seattle. Thirty years later, the rate of heavy drinking during pregnancy has not declined. In fact, the rate rose in the early 90’s and has not decreased since then. In spite of this sad statistic, we know we are raising awareness in Arizona, because more and more families are seeking help from the FAS Community Resource Center.
This year, we have requested Governor Napolitano to sign a proclamation making September 9, 2003 FASD Awareness Day, to bring attention to the new term being used around the world, Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders. This new term helps us focus not only on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome but on the less visible but no less serious Fetal Alcohol Effects (FAE) and those individuals who do not have the full syndrome but are nonetheless affected by prenatal alcohol exposure. FASD lasts a lifetime, and there is no cure. But FASD is 100% preventable.
FASD continues to be a major health issue in our state. There are an estimated 10,000 individuals in Arizona who have FAS, and an additional 40,000 who have FAE. Some of these individuals may have mental retardation, but most have normal intelligence, but are nevertheless impaired in areas such as learning disabilities and memory deficits, and have difficulty with impulse control and poor judgment. They are misunderstood, vulnerable to abuse, and often the nature of their problem is not recognized. Without support services, these children are at risk of entering the criminal justice system, or may end up jobless, homeless, or struggling with poverty and addiction. If we can raise awareness in our community, perhaps we can ensure that these youngsters receive the intervention services they need to have a healthy future. Perhaps we can educate others about the dangers of drinking during pregnancy so more babies can be born healthy. Our unborn children deserve to have the best chance at reaching their potential in life.
On 9/9 at 9:09 bells will ring around the world. May the bells of St. Augustine ring out, loud and strong, telling all to Wake Up! Take Care! Protect Our Little Ones! The unborn have no voice. We must speak on their behalf. I invite the Diocese of Tucson to participate in the Bells Concordance again this year. Please encourage churches in the Diocese to ring their bells on September 9, 2003 at 9:09 a.m. and to appeal to parishioners from the pulpit to educate their children and friends about the importance of abstaining from alcohol during pregnancy.
Director, FAS Community Resource Center