Separating Facts from Fears About Babies with Prenatal Drug Exposure

by | Dec 7, 2015 | Adoptive Families Blog

woman worried about her drug exposed babyWhen a family decides to raise a child through adoption or foster care, there are immediate questions and concerns about the worst-case scenarios that stem from media highlights and long-standing stereotypes about the children and birth parents involved. While there is truth behind some of the fears, it’s vitally important to research the truth, the reality of what to expect, and not base openness to a child on hearsay or fear. One topic of concern adoptive or foster parents share is often regarding drug exposure during pregnancy.

In our experience, foster parents seem overall more willing to accept a child with exposure to extreme situations, such as gestational drug use. For various reasons, it seems parents seeking a permanent adoption, typically with a woman seeking parents to adopt her child at birth, are typically less open to adopting a child exposed to drugs during pregnancy. Many of these hopeful adoptive parents are closed to opportunities to adopt a child with prenatal drug exposure before they learn the actual facts and risks.

It’s important to remember that MANY women who choose adoption for a child are NOT using drugs during pregnancy or in their life generally; many birth mothers want to make healthy choices during pregnancy and do deliver healthy newborns. Still, prenatal substance use is one reason some women will choose adoption, and there’s a need for adoptive parents to be available for those babies.

Before adoptive parents decide how ready or willing they are to adopt a child born exposed to drugs, they should do their homework. Learn from other parents who have adopted children with gestational drug exposure, talk with one or more pediatricians, 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.

In an article published in 2013, a 25 year study of the once labeled “crack babies” shared findings that lead to the conclusion that nurture has more of an effect than nature in these precious children’s lives. Study organizer, Hallam Hurt, shared from her study of over 200 children, “Poverty is a more powerful influence on the outcome of inner-city children than gestational exposure to cocaine…’” You can read the complete article here.

If you’re thinking about adopting a child, keep a list of your questions and concerns and check them off as you learn from research. You could be the best possible parent to give a child what he or she needs to become a healthy, contributing, stable adult. A birth mother may look to you to break a family history of unhealthy choices by giving her child what she cannot overcome in time for her newborn. There may still be risks involved, but a family with opportunity and resources will be better able to help that child through any hurdles.

Ultimately, adoptive parents will have to decide what is right for them and their future family, when it comes to details of an adoption search and the type of adoption desired. Decisions based on facts and understanding will lead to a smoother, more positive, adoption experience. If we can help you learn more about the possibilities for your family through a Lifetime Adoption, please contact us or apply today.


Heather Featherston

Written by Heather Featherston

As Vice President of Lifetime Adoption, Heather Featherston holds an MBA and is passionate about working with those facing adoption, pregnancy, and parenting issues. Heather has conducted training for birth parent advocates, spoken to professional groups, and has appeared on television and radio to discuss the multiple aspects of adoption. She has provided one-on-one support to women and hopeful adoptive parents working through adoption decisions.

Since 2002, she has been helping pregnant women and others in crisis to learn more about adoption. Heather also trains and speaks nationwide to pregnancy clinics to effectively meet the needs of women who want to explore adoption for their child. Today, she continues to address the concerns women have about adoption and supports the needs of women who choose adoption for their child.

As a published author of the book Called to Adoption, Featherston loves to see God’s hand at work every day as she helps children and families come together through adoption.

Read more about Heather Featherston

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