#065 Talking Social Work, FASD and Parents Helping Parents

fasd success show May 11, 2021

The episode this week is a chat with three cool and awesome advocates who are doing great things for caregivers and individuals with FASD. It may be in my home province of Ontario, but what they have to say and are doing can inspire and help where you are. 

Today I’m talking to Sharron Richards, Mary Hutchings and Mary Ann Bunkowsky about social work, advocating for system change, building support teams and The Parents Helping Parents Project, a phone support resource provided by parent Mentors for parents and caregivers of individuals with FASD in Ontario. 

Sharron Richards received her Master of Social Work degree from Carleton University and worked in child welfare for close to 40 years, primarily as a community development worker. She chairs the Toronto FASD Network and is committed to bringing her knowledge, experience, resources, and social privilege to ensuring that individuals and families affected by FASD have access to the resources and supports they require. 

Mary Hutchings has a Master of Social Work degree from the University of Toronto. She spent 38 years with the Children’s Aid Society of Toronto on the front line and as a Manager. She Co-Chairs the Toronto FASD Leadership Team and is a member of the Toronto FASD Network. She is motivated by the resilience and courage of parents/caregivers as well as an understanding that unresolved grief impacts lives in significant and often overlooked ways.  

Mary Ann Bunkowsky participates in many community activities and FASD-related projects, but most notably is the co-founder of the Halton FASD Parent/Caregiver and Adult Support Groups. She also serves on the Halton FASD Steering Committee and served on the Family Advisory Committee with CanFASD. Mary Ann and her husband Brad have two sons. She often states that her children are her teachers, and they remind her often of the important role we all play in each others’ lives. 

In each podcast, the aim is to not only let you know you are not on this journey alone, provide interesting stories about what is going on around the world but also give you inside tips and knowledge to help you advocate for services to make your life as a caregiver and for your children/teens and adults that much better.

Today we talk about: 

  • The disconnect with social work and knowledge about fetal alcohol and how caregivers and professionals can help each other to build better-informed teams of support. 


  • How the Parents Helping Parents Project (Ontario) came about, how it works, who it serves and how it's evolving to meet the need. 

"You have to be a champion for families and kids. It isn’t bad kids or bad parents. It is they have a lot of diagnoses. They have a list of labels. When we realized that those labels really didn’t fit them, when you realized what the disability was and you learned about the disability those labels just went out the window. If you put in the right supports, give them the right opportunities a lot of that behaviour stops.” 

It is so important to keep talking and connecting. Not only as caregivers but also as professionals. You just never know what you are going to learn – and I learned about some resources that are in Ontario that I wasn’t aware of and some interesting projects the Toronto FASD Network is undertaking.  

Even if you are not in Ontario, there are some great discussions about social work and social workers in this episode that I think are helpful for anyone. We know that when caregivers feel supported, they feel less overwhelmed, less isolated and more hopeful. I hope listening to these podcasts provides that. 

Show Notes: 

For Ontario, Canada residents only: 

Phone line: 647-572-4519 

Website: Parents Helping Parents Ontario FASD 

Looking for Virtual Support?

FASD Caregiver Success Facebook Group


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