Carers of WA children damaged by alcohol during pregnancy have criticised the Department for Child Protection, saying it ignores the condition for fear of stigmatising children and their mothers.
A study by the Telethon Institute for Child Health Research found foster carers regularly faced reluctance by doctors and welfare services to provide information about the possibility of foetal alcohol spectrum disorders in children in their care.
FASD is caused by a baby's exposure to alcohol in the womb and can lead to irreversible brain damage, resulting in problems in learning, attention, memory, language, social judgment, emotional regulation and motor co-ordination.
Many children with FASD spend time in foster care. The study found foster carers were highly committed but felt children's complex needs were not supported.
They believed the prenatal history and information about the birth mother was withheld from them by the department because of confidentiality issues or a fear of offending or stigmatising the birth mother.
"Carers considered DCP to be too protective of the parents, concerned about offending the mother and not providing the best opportunity for the child," the report said.
The study, funded by the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education, found many carers believed DCP did not acknowledge the disorder because the children needed significant support and services.