ADOPTION AND PRENATAL ALCOHOL AND DRUG EXPOSURE
Implications for Adoption Practice
Adoption is increasingly recognized as a dynamic, ongoing, lifelong process for all parties involved.
Sorich & Siebert 1982.
The decision to adopt a child with prenatal substance exposure has lifelong implications for the child, the biological parents, and the adoptive family and should be made only after thorough consideration of the risks and challenges - as well as the potentials and opportunities- involved.
Scope of the Issue
Many children of substance abusing parents, including many children who were exposed prenatally to alcohol and/or other drugs, require placement with relatives, foster parents, or eventually adoptive parents.
For children in foster care: Studies have shown that suitable treatment resources are often unavailable and reunification with birth parents occurs only half as frequently in situations involving parental substance abuse as in situations where parental abuse of alcohol and/or other drugs is not a factor [Walker 1994].
Unless children who cannot be reunified with their birth families are placed permanently with other families - through guardianship or adoption - research shows that the risk status for lifelong developmental and/or emotional complications is likely to be heightened by multiple placements and deleterious effects of inconsistent caregiving [Edelstein 1995].
For infants adopted outside the foster care system: Agencies report that a growing numbers of infants relinquished for adoption have been exposed prenatally to alcohol and other drugs (Goldwater 1997). While there are no definitive statistics, agencies indicate that increasingly, infants and young children whom they place for adoption have "special needs", many of which are related to prenatal alcohol and drug exposure (Legg 1997).
For children adopted internationally: Children adopted from Russia, in particular, appear to be at risk for prenatal exposure to alcohol. Aronson (1997) reports that trends in Russia reflect a significant increase in the rate of alcoholism among women, higher rates of adolescent pregnancy and ongoing high levels of parity [she reports, for example, that it is not unusual to learn that children in Russian orphanages have maternal histories of five or more pregnancies].
PRENATAL SUBSTANCE EXPOSURE
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