Mary Ann Banks is a registered nurse with two adopted children, both of whom have what is called fetal alcohol syndrome.
The disorder occurs when a woman consumes too much alcohol while pregnant. Children with the syndrome often have physical anomalies, which sometimes they outgrow.
The most serious problems can include heart murmurs, abnormally small brains, learning disabilities and violent behavior.
Banks estimates that about one in 100 children is born with fetal alcohol syndrome, making it the No. 1 cause of mental disability. Many of these children end up in foster care because their families cant take care of them.
For families with children with the syndrome, though, one of the most stressful aspects is a feeling of isolation. Many parents often have no idea where to turn for advice and support.
Thats where Banks found herself, with two children with the syndrome and no one who understood what she was facing every day.
So about a month ago, Banks, aided by a single friend who also has a child with the same condition, launched a Facebook support group called FASD Indiana, where families with children with the syndrome can share information and, if necessary, just vent.
The Facebook group already has 46 members.
A second Facebook page, called NOFAS Indiana, is designed to seek board members for a statewide group dedicated to families with children with fetal alcohol syndrome. The long-term goal is to establish local chapters throughout the state.
The good response, Banks said, shows the need for families to communicate with one another.
She says she has heard of families that never go out because they cannot control their child.
If local chapters are established, parents can share information and find resources, such as the best doctors for handling the condition and possible treatments.
Banks also wants to increase public education and use chapters to get help for women who have addictions but dont know whom to turn to for help.
Schools often dont understand children with the syndrome, Banks said.
Most children with fetal alcohol syndrome can memorize instructions but dont know how to apply what theyve learned, Banks said. Some teachers get frustrated because a child can memorize something one day, such as addition tables, and the next day he or she remembers none of it cant understand why, she said.
To establish a statewide fetal alcohol syndrome support group and later form local chapters, Banks must establish a non-profit organization, and that will take time.
But the first goal is to get families of children with the condition in touch with one another.
Families of children with fetal alcohol syndrome who cant find the Facebook group can contact Banks at 492-6096 or email her at email@example.com, and she can provide a link.
Banks said its estimated it costs $1.4 million over the course of a lifetime to treat one person with fetal alcohol syndrome.
The easiest solution might just be educating the public about the cause.
Some people just dont know its not safe to drink when youre pregnant, Banks said.