You kept your door open to all adoption possibilities and finallyhave a birth mother who’s interested in you parenting her child. The downside? Her child, your potential future child, has been exposed to drugs. As soon as this realization is out in the open, your stomach drops. Time slows, and your world is turned upside down. For so long, you’ve dreamt of growing your family through the process of adoption. Now, though, you can’t help but wonder if you’re the right adoptive parent for this child. Can I do this?
Adoption Choices of Kansas knows that you want to evacuate. It’s instinct to consider flinging yourself off this ride before it reaches its destination. You fear the uncertainty that may lay in you and your child’s future if you choose adoption. More than anything, though, you have immediate questions and concerns about worst-case scenarios.
Let us help! While there is a truth behind some of your fears, most of them, in actuality, stem from media highlights and long-standing stereotypes. Adopting a drug-exposed baby isn’t as challenging as you may have been led to believe.
What to Expect
When a birth mother uses drugs while pregnant, those drugs affect her child’s brain function during development. As a potential adoptive parent of a drug-exposed baby, you need to know that your child will likely experience issues. Whether those issues will be big or small, nobody can predict.
A lesser side effect your child may experience is withdrawal. Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS) begins shortly after birth with symptoms lasting from three days to two weeks. Symptoms range from mild colic-like symptoms to severities, such as seizures and pauses in breathing. Others include tremors, tight muscle tone, excessive sucking, poor feeding, and difficulty in self-calming and self-regulation. However, not all drug-exposed babies experience symptoms of withdrawal! Timing and dosage of the expectant mother’s drug use influences whether her child experiences NAS.
A greater issue your child may face is delayed or stunted development. Although drugs work their way out of your child’s system during the withdrawal period, there may be longer lasting effects because of behavioral habits and thought processes developed during the time of addiction. This takes a lot of undoing, a lot of patience and consistency, and a lot of love.
The Decision to Adopt a Drug-Exposed Baby
Drug-exposed children are not the severely impaired monsters portrayed in the media.
They don’t differ in most respects from children of similar backgrounds without substance exposure. While they face significant challenges, they’re more than capable of thriving in structured, stable adoptive homes with outside support.
Before you decide how ready or willing you are to adopt a child born exposed to drugs, make sure to do your homework. Learn from other parents who have adopted children with gestational drug exposure, talk with one or more pediatrician, read about the risks and realities discussed in recent studies, and ask adoption professionals what they’ve learned from their experience with these types of adoptions. You may or may not be the best possible parent to give a child what he or she needs to become a healthy, contributing, stable adult.