There are some things to consider when potentially adopting a child with prenatal drug and alcohol exposure. 

“Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.” – Forrest Gump

I have never completed an adoption application, but I can imagine some prospective adoptive families think about Forrest Gump and his infamous quote as they sit there at their kitchen table, filling out an adoption application.

I remember a conversation I had with my parents after I was diagnosed with FAS. I took out my sheet of non-identifying information and pointed to where it said, “There may have been drinking during pregnancy, not an alcoholic.”

Um . . . that sure was NOT the truth.

My parents filled out an adoption application with an agency, and they told me during our conversation that they had discussed with one another about the possibility of a child being exposed in utero to drugs and alcohol. They had just lost a baby to prematurity a couple of years before, and they admitted they were scared to receive another unhealthy child. After much conversation and prayer, they filled out the adoption application in its entirety and sent it in. They decided that God never gives individuals and families more than he knows they can handle. If they received a sick child, they would love and care for that child, because he/she was now theirs. Forever.

So, what are some facts to consider while completing your adoption application? Well, one needs to take a step back and step into the realm of realism. If you are adopting with your spouse or significant other, have a candid, honest conversation. Are you both willing to care for a child who has been prenatally exposed to alcohol or drugs? It would be a good idea to talk to a family who is raising a child with a similar background. Maybe consider talking to a support group of parents who were exposed to substances before birth.

You need to consider that every day could bring a different challenge. The disabilities are lifelong. There is not a pill to fix them. Some days will be wonderful; other days you may want to pull your hair out.

There are doctor’s appointments to consider. Specialist appointments. Therapy. You may have to go to meetings at school to discuss interventions for your child. You may enter into the world of alternative devices and weighted vests and stress balls. Your life will most likely be busier and more challenging than if you adopted a neurotypical child.

This all being said, if you are willing to adopt a child who may require much of your attention, and can work with teachers and doctors to come up with a plan that will make the child’s life and your life less stressful, then on that adoption application, when it asks if you are willing to care for a child who may have been prenatally exposed to alcohol and/or drugs, mark that YES box.

Or maybe you’ll decide that you are willing to adopt any child, understanding that there is no guarantee your child is going to be 100% healthy. Even with all of the ultrasounds and diagnostic tests, there are out there, there is always the possibility that there may be some challenges that will need to be addressed. If this is your way of thinking, then the discussion will be short and simple. “We welcome any child, no matter what challenges they may present.” Then that YES box gets checked.

So, before filling out that adoption application, take time to reflect on who you are and what you’re truly capable of, and then move forward accordingly.



Are you ready to pursue adoption? Visit or call 1-800-ADOPT-98 to connect with compassionate, nonjudgmental adoption specialists who can help you get started on the journey of a lifetime.