Improving the management of young people with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder and other neurodevelopmental impairments in an Australian detention centre

Miss Hayley Passmore1,2, Clinical Associate Professor Raewyn Mutch1,2,3, Associate Professor Sharyn Burns4, Associate Professor Guy Hall5, Professor Jonathan  Carapetis1, Professor Carol Bower1

1Telethon Kids Institute, Perth, Australia, 2School of Paediatrics and Child Health, The University of Western Australia, Perth, Australia, 3Department of Health, Western Australia, Perth, Australia, 4School of Public Health, Curtin University, Perth, Australia, 5School of Law, Murdoch University, Perth, Australia

Background: Health and justice professionals across Australia are urging for an increase in services to better support young people with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) and other neurodevelopmental impairments who are involved with the justice system. Our prevalence study ascertained that 36% of young people sentenced to detention in Western Australia have FASD, and 89% are severely impaired in at least one domain of neurodevelopmental function. However, to date there has been no investigation into the capacity of custodial staff to identify and manage young people in Australian detention centres with FASD or similar impairments.

Methods and Findings: Based at the only youth detention centre in Western Australia, this study determined using mixed methods that a lack of knowledge, inadequate training and inconsistent information-sharing processes reduced custodial staff’s ability to care for young people with FASD and other neurodevelopmental impairments. These data informed the development and evaluation of training resources (a series of short, educational videos) aiming to upskill the custodial workforce in the management strategies most appropriate for young people in detention with such impairments. This presentation will include a demonstration of the training resources, and discussion of their efficacy.

Implications: Given the high rates of impairment among young people in detention in Australia, all staff involved in the care of detained young people should receive comprehensive training about FASD and other neurodevelopmental impairments and appropriate management strategies.Further, this training is necessary and relevant to other workforces engaging with vulnerable young people, such as in the health, education, and child protection sectors.


Hayley Passmore is a PhD Candidate at the Telethon Kids Institute and School of Paediatrics and Child Health, The University of Western Australia. Hayley has qualifications in Criminology and Psychology. She has previous experience working with adult offenders and their families, and with vulnerable children and families across Western Australia. Hayley currently works in the Alcohol, Pregnancy and FASD research group at the Telethon Kids Institute, and is in the final year of her PhD on the workforce development component of the NHMRC funded project titled ‘A feasibility study of screening, diagnosis and workforce development to improve the management of youth with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder in the justice system’.