Society for Social Work and Research

Sixteenth Annual Conference Research That Makes A Difference: Advancing Practice and Shaping Public Policy
11-15 January 2012 I Grand Hyatt Washington I Washington, DC

90P Feasibility of An Online Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) Training for Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) Volunteers

Saturday, January 14, 2012
Independence F - I (Grand Hyatt Washington)
* noted as presenting author
Elizabeth C. Pomeroy, PhD, LCSW, Professor, University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX
Danielle Parrish, PhD, Assistant Professor, University of Houston, Houston, TX
Polly Browning, MSSW, PhD Student, University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX
Background and Purpose:

Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) is a leading, preventable cause of developmental disabilities. FASD describes the effects that can occur in an individual whose mother drinks alcohol while pregnant and refers to a spectrum of lifelong physical, growth, developmental, and cognitive deficits. Many children within the child protective system experience such symptoms, although many remain undiagnosed. One study estimated that the prevalence of FASD was 10 to 15 times greater among foster children than in the general population. Other studies have found that children in this population are 2 to 5 times below the 5th percentile for height and weight, another marker for FASD. Fortunately, there are skills and tools to identify and link children with FASD to the appropriate resources to maximize their functioning, and CASA volunteers are well-positioned to assist in the initiation of this process. Consequently, FASD training for CASA volunteers may result in an increased quality of life for children with FASD within the child welfare system, while also resulting in fewer placements and costs.

The purpose of this study was to examine whether an online FASD training with CASA volunteers would: 1) increase knowledge of FASD, and 2) increase their comfort and confidence in identifying and referring children with FASD to services.


A one group pretest-posttest design was used to assess change in knowledge, comfort and confidence for participants after receiving an online FASD training. This training took three hours to complete and consisted of three components: 1) Description of FASD; 2) How to recognize and assist children with FASD in disparate settings; and 3) How to motivate and interact with clients with FASD and their families. Participants completed the pretest immediately before starting the online training, which consisted of the nine confidence and comfort statements followed by a Likert scale, and eight multiple-choice knowledge questions. These measures were developed and pilot tested by the researchers. Participants completed the same questions at the end of the training. Chi-square tests of independence and paired t-tests were utilized to assess change on each of the dependent measures. Participants were offered a chance to win one of fifteen $50 gift cards as an incentive.

266 CASA volunteers and staff from 69 CASA Texas locations completed the training and assessment measures. The majority of CASA volunteers that participated in the training were female (87%) and White (79%).


The chi-square analysis of the nine comfort and confidence items resulted in significant change from pretest to posttest after using a Bonferroni correction (.05/9 items=.005). There was also a significant improvement in knowledge (t= -13.22, df=265, p<.001) from pretest (M=78.3% correct, SD=.16) to posttest (M=91.6% correct, SD= .97).

Conclusions and Implications:

The results of this evaluation support the feasibility of the online FASD training, as CASA volunteers were more knowledgeable, confident, and comfortable in helping children with FASD after completing the online FASD training. Future research should assess the effectiveness and longer term impact of this training.