One of the most fulfilling, but toughest, jobs in the entire world is “parenting.” Parenting children with special needs, such as fetal alcohol spectrum disorders brings its own set of challenges.

Many parents of children with an FASD are adoptive or foster parents. Some of these parents knew about the FASD when they welcome their children into their family, while others did not. In either case, accurate information is the key to success in raising children with an FASD.

Benefits for parents to learn about FASD include:

• An understanding of how their children are affected
• Which parenting strategies work best
• How to get services and support

If you want to adopt or foster a child with an FASD, knowing the facts can help you make an informed decision.

What is FASD?

• FASD is an umbrella term describing the range of effects that can occur in an individual whose mother drank alcohol during pregnancy
• Effects may include physical, mental, behavioral, and or/ learning disabilities with possible lifelong implications

The term is not a clinical diagnosis, but refers to conditions such as

• fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS)
• alcohol related neurodevelopment disorders (ARND)
• alcohol related birth defects (ARBD)

Physical defects as well as brain damage are the primary disabilities associated with FASD. Lifelong behavioral or cognitive problems may include:

• mental retardation
learning disabilities
• hyperactivity
• attention deficits
• problems with impulse control, social skills, language, and memory

The above problems can lead to other problems called secondary disabilities that may include:

• disrupted school experience
• alcohol and substance abuse
• mental illness
• dependent living
• problems with employment
• inappropriate sexual behavior
• involvement in the criminal or juvenile justice system
• confinement (prison or inpatient treatment for mental health or substance abuse problems)

Children with FASD are likely to need services throughout their life and may never be able to live independently.

Children with an FASD tend to have a number of strengths that include:

• caring
• determination
• eager to please
• they respond well to structure, consistency, concrete communication and close supervision

Many children with an FASD can avoid secondary disabilities and reach their full potential when:

• they are within a supportive home environment
• an early diagnosis is made
• and appropriate services obtained

Prospective parents may request a copy of a child’s complete medical and family history. Medical records may not always tell the entire story. Specific questions you should ask are:

• Possible prenatal exposure to alcohol or drugs
• The physical and mental health of the mother and any siblings
• The developmental history of the child, including possible delays
• Independent evaluations from a physician

Most states require adoption and foster care agencies to share information with prospective parents about the health and social history of the child and birth parents. Few states specifically address alcohol. A full investigation and disclosure is best for everyone to ensure:

• Parents are prepared
• Placements are successful
• Children get the help they need

Parents who choose to adopt or foster a child with an FASD can experience great joy along with the challenges. The child can benefit from a stable, loving home with parents and caregivers who understand his or her needs.

Before you adopt or foster a child who was exposed to alcohol or other drugs during pregnancy, consider the following tips:

• Work with informed professionals in quality adoption agencies
• Explore your feelings about alcohol and drug abuse, particularly among pregnant women
• Discuss the child’s background with your social worker so that you have a realistic picture of the birth parents’ substance use and related lifestyle
• Ask for written summaries of the child’s diagnoses, medical complications, treatment services, and necessary follow-up care
• Ask for information on services and resources to meet the child’s needs, including eligibility for adoption subsidies and Medicaid
• Find out how to reduce the impact of the child’s biological risks by providing a nurturing, responsive, and healthy care giving environment
• Recognize that you must be prepared for and able to tolerate the uncertainties that are part of adopting a child exposed to drugs or alcohol during pregnancy
• Resist negative stereotypes of children exposed to drugs or alcohol during pregnancy, which ignore the individuality of each child and the role of a healthy environment
• Recognize the importance of timely identification of problems and early intervention

Source: US Department of Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration, Center for Substance Abuse Prevention

Disclaimer: These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The information in this article is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. All health concerns should be addressed by a qualified health care professional.

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Written by: Connie Limon Visit: ,a href=""> for information about the job responsibilities of Human Service Specialists. Visit: