Hi everyone,
Prospective foster parent here (home study begins next week) and finally had my first freak out this week. I guess what I'm trying to get a handle on is what the actual spectrum looks like when it comes to behavioral issues for kids as they get older (school age) if they were drug exposed in-utero. The freak out started after talking with a family friend who works in the public school system as a behavior specialist and special education teacher. She just wanted me to get a sense of the challenges she sees based on the kids she works with, specifically kids who were exposed to meth. She talked about pretty extreme cases of RAD along with (or resulting in) violent outbursts, anger, etc.
Then, in reading through many of the threads here, I ran into similar stories. Which leads me to the question of whether that is the entirety of the spectrum or am I only hearing the worst case scenarios. Obviously my friend is going to have a fairly one-sided experience because those are the kids she works with on a daily basis. (And she loves them, don't get me wrong, but was also very honest about the challenges the parents faced.)
I've gone searching on the web for academic and research articles on this as well, but there seems to be very little research at this point (especially on meth exposed kids) and the research that I could find focused mostly on babies and toddlers.
So I'm reaching out to all you amazing people to give me the good, the bad and the ugly. What are you dealing with on a day-to-day basis with your school aged, drug-exposed child? Am I only hearing the extreme stories? Are there drug exposed kids out there that pretty much catch up with their peers by the time they hit school? Does what drug the kid was exposed to matter? Once we are approved for placement, what things should I be asking when the calls come in?
I truly appreciate all your help and guidance!
We had kids with FAS/FASD that did ok. I think their biggest struggles were due to trauma, not the alcohol exposure. I have never had kids born on substances besides marijuana. One of my friends just recently had a sib set of three that were born meth addicted. All three children were tested and the end result was that they all qualified as MR. :( They didn't really make any progress in her home, but that being said... they were only there for three months. Sorry I don't have any better experience than that.
I would say that in our experience we had a harder time with behaviors as a result of trauma than anything else. When you get calls ask if they are willing to send any incident reports to your worker. Then you can kind of get an idea of the child's patterns. We didn't think we could handle sexually acting out, but decided to take a chance and it was a great placement. You just never know if their behaviors are being described accurately by intake. In our state the intake department is more like a sales pitch than an actual rundown of the kids and their history.
Good luck!
My son is four. He had multiple drug exposures, including Meth. He was also born at 25 weeks, which throws an extra element into the mix. Buddy is special needs, but he's mostly caught up to his peers academically. He's very sweet most of the time, but he does have some issues with not listening, being impulsive, and hitting. It's all pretty normal given his age. He's better than some kids, and worse than others. He charms the pants off of most of his teachers and therapists. :)
You probably are hearing worst case scenarios. Some kids will be like that, some will seem pretty typical, and most are somewhere in-between. You need to know how bad it can get so you can figure out what you can handle.
I have two cousins who were born exposed to meth and possibly other drugs. One is now 17, getting ready to graduate high school, and already working toward her CNA credentials. She's not a perfect child, but she is also not a horrible child. The other is 16, a high school junior, makes all A's, runs cross country, and is generally a super likeable kid. His parents would tell you he is the easies of their 4 sons to parent and the other 4 were not drug exposed (these are all their bio kids, including the meth exposed one. My aunt has been clean and sober since he was born. So proud of her!). So I'd say there's a big spectrum of what the outcomes can be for children with drug exposure.
My almost three yo was exposed to many drugs...but apparently not meth or alcohol. She really has a fun and happy personality and my mother thinks she is a genius (ha!). I don't know what struggles, if any, she will have later due to exposure. I do have a friend with a meth exposed grade schooler who struggles very much and has a lot of sensory issues. Hard to know what causes what...
Good luck in getting started!
I don't have personal experience with meth-exposed kiddos, so take this as such. I would guess that envirnment and trauma will have a much bigger effect on the child's outcome than the pre-birth exposure. If you pick up a meth-exposed infant from the hospital you will have many less issues down the road than if you take a foster child of 6 years old who was born meth-exposed. That 6 year old will have many years of possible trauma and/or insecurity to deal with.
We adopted our daughters who were both born addicted to opiods. The first month was rough. They spent the first two weeks in the NICU. They cried a lot and didn't sleep well. Now they are 2 1/2 and 16 months and are doing great. Our oldest is so smart but active. She knew all her colors, shapes, abc and could count to 20 by the age of two. Our 16 month old knows her colors already. I wanted to stop going to our classes after sitting there for the first four hours. I was freaked out. We decided to finish them and am so glad we did. Luckily our girls were addicted to pain/anxiety meds and from what I hear that is one of the better things to be addicted to. We were told by others that neglect is one of the worse things with alcohol being the second. Best of luck. It is so scary to be in this process and not know what the future holds. I feel so blessed with my girls. It is crazy to think that 4 years ago we were in your same position and now our family is complete.
My son was born with drugs in his system (although not meth). He was difficult to get to sleep when he was young (didn't sleep through the night until age 3 and I am not positive he was sleeping all night or if I was just too tired to care). He puked. A lot. That seems pretty universal. He is very sensitive. To everything. TO the point where I would consider it near a disability. He is in 4th grade now. He has an IQ higher than any I have ever heard. He is extremely gifted athletically (in non hand eye sports). He does have trouble making friends because he is so very different (almost aspbergersish). He doesn't seem to care though. He is generally a superstar at everything he does. Some families might consider him difficult to parent because he comes off as sassy and disrespectful and I know he would not do good in a family that doesn't encourage thinking for yourself and expressing your opinions. Honestly, I think most of my friends would give their right arm to have a child like mine. Out of all my friends that have adopted drug exposed kids (probably about 25 kids), I would say two of us have "exceptional children" in a positive sense. 10 kids are exceptionally difficult and the rest have some issues but nothing overwhelming. It is a crap shoot but I think it is wrong to go into adopting a drug exposed kid thinking there will not be some ill effects from it. Even my perfect child had ill effects and I can see him really struggling as an adult.