Saturday, July 7, 2007

Drugs & Babies - A Personal Comment

This post has been a long time coming... I've mulled over the topic of babies being exposed to illegal drugs/toxins in-utero in every imaginable place and at every imaginable time... over dish soap bubbles, driving to piano lessons, making dinner, in line at Walmart and every time I look in the face of Little Boy Blue. It is something I ponder many times in the course of each day.

It is not an easy topic for us; nor something flippant to write on and then forget. It is, however, a reality for families seeking to be foster parents or adoptive parents through the foster care system, as well as those pursuing adoption from some international locales.

So, where does one begin to discuss something of this magnitude? I suppose I'll honestly describe a few tidbits from our early decision-making in this post and in a few weeks, in a later post, I'll attempt give you a brief picture into the known effects of drugs on children.

I cringe when I think of the naivete, selfishness and just plain immaturity of our initial inquiry to Covenant Kids... my words went something like this... "we want to be adoptive parents only and we are not interested in children who have been abused/neglected or exposed to drugs in-utero." I'm sure the intake person on the other end was laughing or, at a minimum, rolling her eyes... almost every child in foster care has been abused or neglected and a very high percentage of the infants have been exposed to drugs on one level or another. Thankfully, she didn't say 'take a hike' or 'let me give you the name of Perfect Children-R-Us Adoption Agency.' She promptly registered us for training! Unbelievable.

We attended our 30 hours of training and received an abundance of information about drug-exposed babies. The thing that stands out the very most to me was the emphasis placed on a child's first two years of life... the prognosis for drug-exposed babies was and is hopeful if they are loved and nurtured. I wonder why this was such a surprise for me?

There was story upon story of children who were fostered and later adopted by families who nurtured them during this very important formative time; met their basic needs, gave the babies many opportunities for verbal development, enrolled them in Early Childhood Intervention if necessary, and just overall provided a semi-normal life for these wee ones. Mostly, these children were close to being developmentally on track for their age. They often could not be distinguished from their peers raised in normal family environments with healthy Mommies.

On the other hand, there was also story upon story of children who had been born drug-exposed and then were left in their cribs for the bulk of every day, malnourished, with little one-on-one interaction. These children failed to attach to anyone at critical milestones... and every day that passed, they moved deeper into their own little world. These children had a tough time of it... difficulty in relationships of all types, difficulty with authority, and even failure to develop a conscience. This is serious business for our society.

Our fears about drug-exposed children were immediately eased. We knew we could provide a stable environment, meet basic needs and nurture a child. We suddenly came face to face with the truth - we do not know what challenges any child will present, biological or adopted. Often a biological child who has had no exposure to toxins and spends his/her first years in a loving home still ends up with some type of learning difficulty and/or disability. There are no guarantees... and there are no perfect children. You would think I would have learned such things at my age!

Ultimately, we were persuaded... and oh, what we would have missed if we had closed the door to children who didn't appear perfect on paper. Sometimes the greatest blessing is the most unexpected. And our fears completely disappeared when we took one look in the responsive eyes of a child who just needed to be loved...

God generously gave us just the right amount of information at just the right time... and, we remain forever changed on this topic!

2 comments:

christy said...

Laura,

I can relate so much with your thoughts here. I have seen many children in my work that needed that special attention...which speaks for why they were in a special ed classroom or receiving services of some kind. And you are right...we can have biological children that will end up needing some special attention as well.

So, we accept what what God has placed before us, knowing that He will give us all that we need to give that child as such stability, support and love that is in our power to give.

Thanks for your perspective....I appreciate it so much :)

Laura - Walking the Long & Winding Road said...

Christy -

Thank you for commenting. And, thank you so much for taking the time to read my ramblings. I look forward to doing the same on your web site. Not a day goes by that I don't wonder what is going on in your licensure. I've got your site on my feeds and can't wait to read the news of a new one at your home.

I'd love to read/hear more of your experiences and wisdom relating to this topic, too.

Laura