ADOPTION AND PRENATAL ALCOHOL AND DRUG EXPOSURE
III. Preparation of Adoptive Families: Pre-adoption education and consultation
It would appear that adoptive parents need
to be more mature and psychologically aware
than biological parents because of the special obstacles they face. They need to know more about themselves and to be capable of empathizing with their child's position.
Critical areas in which work needs to be done with the prospective adoptive parents of children who were exposed prenatally to drugs and alcohol are:
Work in these areas requires the sharing of information about the child's history and background. Prospective adoptive families should be told during the home study and referral process about prenatal alcohol/drug exposure in general and the specifics relating to the child whom they are considering for adoption.
- Their own attitudes and beliefs related to adoption
- Their feelings about the birth families of the child they may adopt - including their feelings about birth parents who abuse alcohol and other drugs, and, in particular, their feelings about women who abuse alcohol/drugs during pregnancy
- The inherent uncertainty and ambivalence in all adoption but particularly in relation to the adoption of children who were prenatally exposed to alcohol or other drugs. Issues include:
- Balancing optimism with awareness [not looking for symptoms of problems everywhere but being fully aware that children with prenatal drug exposure may be at extra risk]
- Maintaining objectivity about media reports [often pejorative portrayals such as "crack babies", "walking time bombs", or "oblivious to affection" that convey the message that prenatal drug exposure is a diagnosis or disability and not, as it is, a risk factor]
- The option of open adoption and its many variants and nuances - a complex area requiring a consideration of the unique circumstances and a recognition that it is not possible to anticipate every consequence
- Generally, focus should be on questions to help parents determine whether adopting a child with prenatal substance exposure is an appropriate option for them.
- When the child is already in the parents' care or has been presented as a prospective adoptive child, the family should be told:
- what efforts were made to obtain information
- what is known about the birth parents
- the evaluations of the child and the expert opinions that have been obtained
PRENATAL SUBSTANCE EXPOSURE
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