Foetal damage 'is a hidden phenomenon in Ireland'
Nothing had prepared foster father David Gerry for the two beautiful, but troubled, children he and his wife would devote their lives to bringing up.
David (67), from Victoria, Canada, and wife Grace (59), a counsellor from Laghey, Co Donegal, fostered a young girl and her brother in 1999 in Canada.
Almost immediately, the couple realised all was not well with the children, who it transpired had Foetal Alcohol Syndrome.
"My wife was a social worker and she brought home this boy and girl to foster. We didn't know that they had FAS," Mr Gerry said.
"We thought it was because of the environments they'd been brought up in, as they'd been to six foster homes in 24 months.
"But someone mentioned FAS to us and explained that it was a brain condition.
"We started to look into this and found the children were not deliberately trying to be difficult; they had different brains.
"The condition is a lifelong brain injury.
"With support most people can manage but most are not diagnosed and don't get the help they need and that's the reason so many with FSA end up in trouble - 60pc wind up in jail, 90pc have mental health diagnoses, 50pc have an addictive disorder and many are homeless.
"It's a silent phenomenon and in Ireland where there's a cultural tolerance of drink, this is not being recognised.
"Pressure needs to be placed on Government to carry out coherent surveillance on FSA. We need to know how many babies we're looking for and the resources to diagnose the children.
"FSA is no different to any condition, the sooner it's identified, the better and we could save the taxpayer millions by treating children and keeping them out of trouble."
The Gerrys' foster daughter has progressed well and is now in a part-time job, with a loving partner, who provides a stable framework for her.