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Birth Family Contact for Newborns with Prenatal Drug Exposure

Has anyone here adopted a newborn exposed to drugs in-utero? How is contact with the birth family handled? I wouldn’t mind an open adoption if that was the only option for contact, but I would have concerns if the birth mother (or anyone else in the birth family) still uses drugs.


Whereby I completely understand where you’re going with this, I am not sure that you would know if they were using drugs, or not…

Posted by pednurse91 on Jun 07, 2019 at 1:00am

I agree with the above comment. Plus, even if the adoption was open, you would be present at every visit. If you felt uncomfortable, you have the right to remove yourself and your child from the situation, so I wouldn’t worry too much about that. However….as the mom of a beautiful 3 year old with some challenges that may or may not (but likely are) related to in utero substance exposure, I can tell you that it has become much more difficult for my husband and I to maintain a positive attitude around birth mother contact, as we continue to learn and discover how these challenges effect our son. We love him so much and he is the most beautiful, special, intelligent little guy. The older he gets and the more he develops, the sicker (let’s be real, the angrier) we get over how anyone could put their child at risk like that and the selfishness it reflects. It may or may not be the “right” way to feel, but we are human and we are in love with our son, and these are our raw feelings.

Posted by LisaP on Jun 07, 2019 at 6:47pm

We live on opposite sides of the country so routine visits arent a thing for us. I update birthmom and send pictures once a month, even though i know she is still using. I set up a separate facebbok account and communicate that way. It doesnt hurt my daughter at all to send the updates.She has written a few times and skyped once, but birthmom is very unreliable and usually doesnt return letters or show up for the appointed skype times most of the time. When my daugtet was little she didnt care, but around age 8 she started getting upset when biomom would stand her up or not respond to letters. So we pulled back on direct contact. When shes older and can better understand we willvtry again if my daughter wants to.

Posted by rn4kidz on Jun 07, 2019 at 7:49pm

You say you are thinking about this, which is so to your credit, but it seems like you have not yet adopted and are worried about addicted parents. Which is understandable.
How would you treat a member of your own family that is addicted, addled, and perhaps unreliable? That’s one place to start. Could be, we love to talk to you but not when you are high.
It’s concerning to me (FFY, former adoptee, former rehomed adoptee, former again not “bonded” adoptee, so there is that) that you are saying you would be open to an open adoption is that were the only option. That is saying to me that you really don’t want these people involved in any way with the child but if that’s what you need to do to get a child, you’ll settle. Believe me, those attitudes may seem subtle but they are screaming to adoptees.
Odds are that if you go into a DIA the mother may have a drug problem. You should be aware that the child will still be her child, regardless of her flaws, and that while open adoption agreements are mostly not legally, and almost always de facto, not enforceable, the child will at some point want a connection with the natural parent.
Also that being exposed to drugs in utero can cause problems that don’t show up for years or decades,as can the trauma of adoption itself. No one yet has been able to isolate those. They can be significant and raising a child with those strikes against her is likely to be very challenging.
as is that any mother whom you “settle” for as the “birthparent” of the child you want will likely be a thorn in your side.

Posted by NoraT on Jun 11, 2019 at 1:05am

Nora T, some expectant moms who choose to place their babies have substance abuse issues, but not all.  That kind of stereotype is harmful to all in the adoption triad. 

As a prospective adoptive parent you should research the issues before you decide about your ability to parent a child who was exposed, or potentially exposed, to substances in utero.  I do agree with Nora that you should not accept a match that you are not comfortable with.  When we were still prospective adoptive parents we were called about a potential match (e-mom was in labor) where the expectant mom wanted open adoption.  The agency director balked when I said that I would want both sides to agree to what that meant prior to saying yes.  (that should have been my first clue about the agency director, but that is another story)  Open adoptions run the gamut from semi-open, where contact is just through pictures and letters, to on-going visits on a regular basis to monthly contact.  There is no one-size fits all, and if you read posts and articles on this site, you will see that open adoption contact often changes over time, sometimes becoming more frequent, sometimes less frequent.

Adoption agreements, post-placement agreements, whatever you call them are largely unenforceable by law, but that becomes an issue when adoptive parents do not follow through.  In a situation where b-mom has substance abuse issues, part of the agreement can be that contact is dependent on b-mom maintaining sobriety.  That way, you are not backing out on the agreement, but you are keeping your child safe.  You would not allow any other family member around your kid if that person was intoxicated or high, so why would you let bio-family do that?

I would encourage you to research both prenatal exposures and open adoption so that you can make an informed decision if and when you are presented with a potential match.  There are challenges associated with adoption that can be different from biological parenting, you have to know that going in, and you have to know what you and your family can and cannot manage.  Otherwise, it is not fair to the child.

Posted by jszmom on Jun 12, 2019 at 1:33pm

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