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"A pivotal moment..."

Social Work professor Dorothy Badry holds Premier's Award for Education

Dorothy Badry was recognized for her work educating social workers and human service professionals about Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, and making the disorder a women's health issue as well as a children's health issue.

Dorothy Badry was presented with the Premier’s Award of Excellence in Education Friday Dec. 2nd, at the International Day for People with Disabilities (IDPD) celebration.  Badry, PhD, RSW, received the award for the work that she has done in educating the provinces social workers and in advocating for individuals and families living with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD). 

“FASD is an outcome,” Badry, an Associate Professor in the Faculty of Social Work explains, “It's often an outcome of historical trauma … of violence and abuse, of historical child abuse …  of a legacy of inter-generational challenges within families. It is a cycle that can be prevented with information and knowledge. I think that is one of the most confounding aspects of FASD.”

Recognition a long time coming

As we speak Badry moves her hands over the award, almost as though it’s a tangible symbol of what she has achieved over her many years as an educator and researcher. “I feel like the award was a pivotal moment to have all the work that I’ve done in supporting people withFASD and education about FASD recognized at this level,” says Badry, “it really meant a lot.”

Badry’s interest in FASD education and advocacy began during her 15-year career as a child welfare worker with the Government of Alberta. Early on she recognized that FASD and families struggling with addictions and trauma were significant issues in child protection. “I loved my work,” says Badry, “ and it inspired me to continue to gain knowledge, and I learned from some of the best in the field. I just realized that this was a critical issue in social work and human services that we really needed to pay attention to.” 

Understanding FASD as the result of many other issues

Badry realized that there were several education issues that needed to be addressed. The first was simply raising awareness of the presence of individuals with FASD in nearly every area where a social worker might have clients:  in the child protection system, the healthcare system, the education system, in community-based agencies and as a sizeable percentage of the homeless population. “We really need to continue to support increasing knowledge in FASD so that our human service professionals can work effectively with this population,” says Badry.

The second educational goal was to shift the focus of FASD interventions toward prevention by understanding FASD as Badry says, the “outcome” of many underlying factors. “In theory FASD is preventable,” says Badry, “but in practice we recognize that women who give birth to children with FASD often have really difficult and complex trauma histories and that substance use is a means for them to cope with their own pain and suffering. 

“When I say that we need to look at FASD from a child and women's health perspective, that broadens the scope of how we look at health because it includes physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health. Helping people on this pathway to a more holistic status of health would be an effective tool in prevention.” This shift was reflected in the Premier’s  Award which acknowledged that her “work has been instrumental in changing how FASD is being addressed in Alberta and across Canada.” 

Research leader and fierce advocate for families living with FASD

Badry was quick to share the accolade, thanking the faculty of social work for supporting her work for so many years and saying that she feels that the award is really recognition of the good work achieved by many people over many years, and that she was just another individual “taking up the torch.” 

Having said that, the award clearly recognizes her critical role on many research and evaluation projects and her leadership role in FASD education for social workers and other practitioners and as co-chair of the FASD Education, Training, Supports and Services Council, and as lead co-principal investigator and expert member of the Alberta FASD-Cross Ministry Committee. The award also mentions Badry’s development of online courses, which have improved the delivery of distance education making her classes more accessible to marginalized groups in rural, remote and Indigenous communities.

The award also reflects her support of Parent Child Assistance Programs (PCAP) that match women facing significant challenges with a mentor who provides support for them to make healthy lifestyles choices for themselves and their families. One highlight of that work was the creation of the PCAP Women’s Quilt – Woven Together – a unique research project, and a beautiful piece of art, that has been showcased at numerous conferences and events.

Faculty of Social Work professor Dorothy Badry with the Honourable Kent Hehr, Minister of Veteran Affairs & Associate Minister of National Defense

Dorothy Badry with the Honourable Kent Hehr, Minister of Veteran Affairs & Associate Minister of National Defense at the award ceremony

The need for strong advocates: Empowering families.

It’s clear that while some awards may not mean that much, this one really does and it means a lot, both for Dorothy Badry and the families she has helped for many years. The fact that the award was presented at the city’s celebration of the International Day for People with Disabilities, made it even better. “I was absolutely delighted that this happened on the International Day of Persons with Disabilities because it has been a lot of work for us to have FASD recognized as a disability.”

While there are new Canadian Diagnostic Guidelines on FASD and Canada has been a leader in this area, the challenge -due to the disorder's complex presentation - has been to develop an integrated service system that effectively addresses this disability. The pressure to develop these integrated services requires advocacy. Often it is the parent voice that is the advocate for children with disabilities and family members with disabilities. 

“In FASD that family voice has sadly been quite absent,” says Badry, “and that's likely rooted in the nature of the problem and its relationship to addictions and to trauma. Bringing forth the family voice is actually really important, and I think that is one of the distinctions in recognizing FASD as a disability and really advancing inclusion.”

Of course Badry’s work isn’t done She continues to facilitate a social networking system and national research agenda on FASD, homelessness and child welfare, with various universities, communities and organizations, while continuing as an educator and an advocate for people with an FASD, their families and caregivers.