Thursday, April 19, 2012

Drugs + Babies = Maybe

In the case of prenatal development, drugs and alcohol can be scary subjects to talk about. Most women that have planned pregnancies do everything they can to eliminate these risks. On the other hand, it's hard for women with unplanned pregnancies to eliminate risks.  Their fetus could be exposed to alcohol or drugs before they even know they're pregnant.

With our agency, babies of all levels of exposure are placed with adoptive parents.  From available stats between July 2009 and June 2010 for OA&FS:
  • 47% of children placed had no prenatal exposure to drugs or alcohol
  • 26% had mild exposure
  • 13% had moderate exposure
  • 13% had severe exposure
Pictured below is the lower half of the Screening Tool discussing the various types of exposure.  Luckily, our agency uses this to allow adoptive parents to specify the level of exposure that they are comfortable with.  While our agency does not advise us or directly educate us, they encourage us to do our own research and come to our own decisions.  We still have a lot of research to do, but we do know that we won't rule out every single exposure.  Here are some gut-check reactions to share my personal perspective on this portion of the Screening Tool:

Mild - Alcohol Use
From what we know right now, exposure to alcohol seems to have a higher potential for permanent damage.  This one is a major concern even though there are also plenty of cases where alcohol has absolutely no measurable impact.

Moderate - Marijuana, Methamphetamine, Cocaine, Heroin, Prescription Narcotics, and Tobacco
More research is definitely needed for these, but current input we have now seems to say that even babies born addicted to drugs can be weaned off of them without long-term problems.  I would certainly not be a fan of that situation, but the knowledge that risks for long-term problems are reduced makes me lean towards a wider acceptance of exposure. 

Moderate - Mental Illness of Birthparent and Developmental Disabilities of Birthparent
Both of these are extremely variable.  For mental illness, a birthparent could simply have depression or something that wouldn't pass genetically to the baby.  For both of these, the bigger concern would be genetic impacts and the capability for the birthparent(s) to sustain a healthy and ongoing relationship in an open adoption.

Moderate - Child with a known medical condition
This is rather broad considering the amount of information available about a fetus.  It could be something permanent or something with a potential to be corrected.

So, some of you may be reading the answers above to mean that we would automatically accept a baby from a birthmom that consistently used heroin, dabbled with meth, and wasn't opposed to binge drinking while pregnant.  The agency could tell us that a birthmom with that history has chosen us, but from there it would be our decision on what happens next.

Rather than locking us into an automatic acceptance of certain cases, the Screening Tool is used to help the agency match each unique birthmother to an adoptive family.  Just like we want the birthmother to share an honest account of possible exposures to the baby, Andy and I should aim to truly represent our comfort zone in the Screening Tool to raise our chances of having a sustainable match with a birthfamily.

1 comment:

  1. I LOVE the title of this post. You two are awesome. I'm impressed with your thoughtfulness on all these issues.