This is a sad story, but there’s a point, so stick with it.
This weekend my husband, Matt, and I went out to a bar with some friends. While we were there, we noticed an obviously pregnant woman drinking and smoking. I realize that many pregnant women may drink occasionally, but this girl was clearly intoxicated.
She was a train wreck and no one could look away.
Then, I overheard one person say, “that must be an adoption baby.”
Let me tell you, as an adoptive mom, this hurt me to the core. I know it wasn’t meant to be insensitive, but three days later, I cannot stop wondering if that’s really what people think about adoption.
I have been advocating for adoption for a long time. It always surprises me when people are unwilling to consider adoption as a way to grow their families. Now, I’m putting these things together… maybe more people than I realize think adoption is for drug babies. Maybe that’s why people say “good for you” when they find out my kids were adopted. Do they think my kids are a charity case? Because they are not.
Neither of my kids had drug or alcohol exposure before birth. In fact, their birth mothers took care of themselves and they still love the boys to this day. It’s not just my kids…
I firmly believe that if a birth mother did not love her baby and want the best for it, she would have had an abortion. While I am not personally pro-abortion, it is still a legal and viable option for women who are not prepared to become mothers. However, a birth mom willingly brings a baby into the world with the intent of giving it the best possible life. Even if that is not with her. She is selfless.
Adoption agencies talk with birth moms about drug and alcohol exposure prior to delivery. The agencies are not judgmental about drug and alcohol use, however, they do need to know the truth. A baby born with drug or alcohol exposure will need special care and without knowing the truth ahead of time, the placement is likely to fall through. What I’m saying is, there are cases of exposure in adoption, but it is generally known ahead of time and is certainly not the norm.
I have not been able to find a statistic on the percentage of newborn adoptions that have had drug or alcohol exposure. However, I did find that the worldwide incidence of fetal alcohol syndrome is estimated at 1 to 3 per 1,000 live births. It is well documented that one of the main reasons kids end up in foster care is because their parents have substance abuse problems.
A review of 33 studies of children in the care of child welfare agencies or foster parents, as well as kids before and after their adoption from orphanages, found that six percent of children in those settings had fetal alcohol syndrome. Please note that these are children who were not adopted at birth. These are children who remained with their birth family until they were removed from the home and placed in foster care or an orphanage.
Drug and alcohol abuse during pregnancy is a terrible travesty. The lifetime cost for one person with fetal alcohol syndrome is estimated to be $2 million. People with severe problems, such as profound intellectual disability, have much higher costs.
If you are adopting a child and you are concerned about exposure, you have the right to ask the birth mom to have regular drug screens. You also have the right to ask your doctor for a preadoption medical review, where your doctor will assess the baby and any risk factors. The vast majority of disabilities related to prenatal care are apparent at birth.
I hope this eases the mind of anyone who may be considering adoption.
Please let me know if you have any questions!
P.S. A few interesting statistics about who is at highest risk (it’s not who you think!) –
According to the Centers for Disease Control:
- Among pregnant women, the highest estimates of reported alcohol use were among those who were:
- Aged 35-44 years (14.3%);
- White (8.3%);
- College graduates (10.0%);
- Employed (9.6%)
- 1.4% of pregnant women (or 1 in 71) and 15.0% of nonpregnant women (or 1 in 7) reported binge drinking in the past 30 days.