Parenting a Child Born With an Addiction

It's National Drug and Alcohol Addiction Recovery Month!

Rebecca Tillou September 13, 2016
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I am not a parent of a child born with an addiction to drugs and/or alcohol; I am a child born with an addiction to alcohol.

This article is not about me, though (I have written my share of those . . . haha).

So when I sat down to write this article, I was going to begin by researching parenting tips for parents who have children in this category. I was going to use my tried-and-true friend Google. Then I realized I had much better resources to utilize. I turned to a Facebook page I am a member of, and I gave this shout out:

Hello friends!  So I am going to be doing another article for Adoption.com, “Parenting a Child Born with an Addiction.”  I am reaching out to get parents’ advice on the highs, the lows, and strategies of parenting your children. Thanks! 

I was pleased and appreciative of the responses I received, which I hope in turn will help those parents out there searching and hoping for strategies to help their children.

Here they are:

Have a hardcore, legitimate respite plan in place with an experienced person. You will become utterly exhausted by lack of sleep and baby’s around-the-clock withdrawal symptoms. One or two nights of full sleep every couple of weeks will actually keep you healthy enough to work hard on the bonding. When we adopted through a private agency, where birth moms planned their adoptions, we were naive to the fact we could be getting an exposed child. People sometimes are going that route vs foster-to-adopt for fear of getting a child with prenatal exposure, but the fact is, you may still well be.”

“Understand that it’s going to be hard. All the love will never be enough, but it’s a good start, and loving/learning to love your child will make you a better person. Understand everyone’s situation is different, just as alcohol and drug exposure means different outcomes for each child. Understand that if your FASD child looks “normal,” it will be very difficult for family and friends to get the disability. Understand that some family and friends will eventually get it, while others won’t. It’s OK. They may need time to process the reality. Create an amazing support network. Look in places you never thought of to provide this support network (an older high school student with a special needs sibling can be a great idea for respite; lifeguards at the local pool; a kid’s friend’s parent who is understanding and let’s your kid sleep over, and then when you call to pick him up in the morning says, ‘Hey. I think you need a break. He is doing good and we are keeping him until dinner.’ And then they do.”

“I think it’s important for people to know that babies who are ONLY exposed to heroin tend to recover to the point that they are indistinguishable from their peers by the time they reach third grade when it come to behavior and academics. It’s terrible and traumatic, but it’s alcohol that causes lifelong disabilities. I think a lot of people turn down heroin-exposed babies because they think it causes disabilities. If a woman admits to heroin and denies alcohol, she probably telling the truth. Also, in the professional realm, they don’t call the babies addicted. They lack the knowledge that the substance is harmful. They are ‘drug-exposed’ or ‘dependent,’ which means they have withdrawals and need medical intervention.”

“I think it is important for parents to understand that they won’t be able to know anything about the child’s future prognosis just based on a few tests when the baby is first born. It will be a lifetime of uncertainty, and in some cases like FASD, parents should expect that they may be contributing in a significant way to the child’s well-being his/her entire life.”

A beautiful soul shared the following with me. I had never read this before, but it makes so much sense in what sometimes can be a world of chaos:

welcome to holland

Every child deserves a forever home.  Every child deserves a chance to be loved and to be a kid.

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Rebecca Tillou

Rebecca was adopted as an infant. She found her birth family in May of 2013 and continues to keep in touch with them. Sadly, her birth mother passed away in 1999. She and her husband live in New York and are the parents of two beautiful little boys, Dominic and Nicolas. They also have a German Shepherd mix named Chester. She was recently diagnosed with FASD at 34 years of age. She is currently working with nofas.org and thearg.org to get the word out that there is hope, and that you are never too old to better yourself.


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