7 Things You Need to Know About Adopting a Child With Drug Exposure or FAS

As a first-time prospective adoptive parent filling out a special needs preference list, I approached it with the question, “If I were able to have a biological child, would there be a chance he could be born with this condition?” I do not drink alcohol, nor have I ever used illegal drugs, so on my first preference list, I indicated I would not take a child with possible drug/alcohol exposure.

When we were ready to adopt for a second time, I had done more research about the effects of drugs and alcohol on a developing fetus. By no choice of their own, these babies’ developing bodies and minds are affected. They too need a loving, nurturing home. I have since adopted two children who were drug-exposed. Here are some things you need to know if you are adopting a child who was drug-exposed or may have FAS (fetal alcohol syndrome).

1. You may see the effects of exposure right away.

These manifest as:

2. You may not see the effects of exposure for years. Symptoms that might take longer to emerge include:

3. There is no “cure.”

Work with professionals to treat the resulting behaviors or delays.

4. Take appropriate steps with your child’s school to best educate him/her.

5. Remember it is not your child’s fault.

6. It’s not your fault either.

7. Having a child with any type of special need affects the whole family.

In one study, children who were drug-exposed and placed in an adoptive home showed better cognitive and language development than those who remained with their birth mothers. These children had a stable home environment with better-educated parents than those who remained in biological parental custody.

It has been challenging raising children with behavioral issues that may have resulted from prenatal drug exposure, but we love them and are willing to do whatever it takes to help them grow and develop. If we knew then what we know now, we wouldn’t change a thing. They are ours for better or for worse.

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