What You Need to Know When Adopting a Baby with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS)

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It is not uncommon for a baby to be exposed to alcohol before birth. According to the National Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (NOFAS) over 40,000 babies are diagnosed with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Disorder (FASD) every year. Parents looking to adopt a child may or may not know if a baby or child was exposed to alcohol in utero, depending on whether or not adoption records of the birth mother documents this information.

As a prospective adoptive parent, knowing if your baby’s biological mother drank while she was pregnant can prepare you to take care of any developmental issues your baby may have. It’s best to educate yourself on FASD as much as you can to be able to care for your child’s needs. It’s important to not to let a baby being exposed to alcohol in the womb discourage you from giving him or her a loving home. Dr. Phil Fisher, a psychologist at the University of Oregon who studies adopted and foster children, said that some children who have had prenatal exposure to alcohol are resilient and do okay. You should also recognize that not all adopted children are bound to face challenges but if some do, you should take appropriate action to treat disorders like FASD. Here is a guide to what you need to know about FASD and how to help your adopted child through their problems.

What is Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Disorder (FASD)?

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) also known as Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Disorder (FASD) is a condition a child develops when they are exposed to alcohol during their mother’s pregnancy. It causes a series of developmental and behavioral problems, all of which may vary between each child. The defects from FASD can’t be reversed and is a lifelong condition that needs to be treated much like a chronic disease.

What Causes FASD?

When a woman drinks during her pregnancy, the alcohol she consumes travels from the placenta straight to the fetus. A developing baby in their mother’s womb can’t break down alcohol the same way an adult’s liver can so the alcohol levels are much more concentrated. This high concentration of alcohol and a fetus’s inability to break it down stops the proper amount of nutrition and oxygen from reaching the baby’s critical organs. Drinking during the first few weeks of pregnancy can cause a baby to develop FASD and many studies show it is most harmful when babies are exposed to alcohol during the first three months of gestation but consuming alcohol at any time while pregnant can cause damage.

What are the Symptoms and Defects?

Symptoms: Symptoms for FASD may vary in severity from child to child. Some signs and symptoms your child has FASD can be a blend of physical or mental defects, developmental issues, and difficulty interacting and operating in day to day activities.

Physical Defects:

  • Abnormal facial features – A small head, small and wide-set eyes, extremely thin upper lip, and a short upturned nose.
  • Deformed joints, limbs, and fingers.
  • Vision and hearing issues.
  • Heart problems and problems with functioning kidneys.

Brain and Nervous System Defects:

  • Small brain size
  • Poor coordination
  • Memory problems
  • Delayed growth and learning development like speech and social skills.
  • Poor focus
  • Hyperactivity

Behavioral Problems:

  • Difficulty getting along with other people.
  • Lack of social skills.
  • Problems learning in school.

FAS Resources and Organizations

Here are three non-profit organizations who provide resources and support for families who need help treating a child with FASD:

  1. National Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome

The National Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (NOFAS) is dedicated to educating and bringing awareness to FASD. Their vision is a world where children are born without being exposed to alcohol or drugs. Their site offers parents and caregivers with tools to treat FASD.

  1. FASDs – Center for Excellence

This Center for Excellence for FASD is a Federal initiative committed to preventing and treating this disorder in children and adults.

  1. Families Moving Forward Program

The Families Moving Forward (FMF) program is devoted to assisting children with FASD and their families.

What You Can Do as an Adoptive Parent

As an adoptive parent its best to go into the adoption process with an open mind and knowledge of the problems that may come up with your baby potentially having FASD in order to help them in whatever capacity they may need. It’s also important to remember that researching and gaining knowledge on the condition before adopting a child with FASD can only help you so much. Many people say that you don’t fully understand what it’s like until you’ve experienced parenting a child with this disorder.

If you are thinking about adopting a baby with FASD you must ask yourself some tough questions and think about whether or not you can handle what this child will need throughout his or her life. You will also have to be ready to ignore or filter out any criticisms towards you or your child. Don’t hesitate to reach out to your child’s doctor, other health care professionals, or support groups to help you deal with the challenges you and your child may face. Working with a team can ensure the best outcome for giving your child the most healthy and happy life they can get.

Sources:

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/fetal-alcohol-syndrome/symptoms-causes/syc-20352901

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-fetal-alcohol-disorders/fetal-alcohol-disorders-common-in-adopted-foster-kids-idUSBRE98804I20130909

https://adoption.com/baby-with-fetal-alcohol-syndrome

https://www.nofas.org/

https://www.samhsa.gov/fetal-alcohol-spectrum-disorders-fasd-center

http://depts.washington.edu/fmffasd/

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