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Children exposed to drugs


Children exposed to drugs
thrive in their families to adoption.

Excerpt from Focus on Adoption, Oct./Nov.1999
Summary of the intervention of Dr Jill Waterman on the adoption of children exposed to drugs with a Conference of the American Council on adoptable children (Pasadena, 28 July-1)ER(August 1999). Dr. Waterman directs the Division of clinical psychology from UCLA. She is also one of the instigators of the project TIES in Los Angeles. TIES aims to provide the training, the means of intervention, education and services in order to allow the adoption of children exposed to alcohol or other drugs during the antenatal period.

Regularly for more than 10 years, media favouring us bad news to the stories of children of the drug they irretrievably doomed to a life of wandering and crime.Even the prestigious American Bar association speaks of "new offenders".The good news is that all this is archi-faux. Even that capable of major challenges, drug-exposed children can fully flourish among adoptive parents structured and stable, with the help of external support.

Effects at birth:

  • Changes in muscle, tone
  • Lack of nerve stability: children can be nervous and difficult to calm;
  • Problems of orientation: difficulties to get the focus Visual;
  • Size and lower than normal birth weight.



"Drug-exposed children are far from being incurable monsters described by the media." In many respects, it is different from similar backgrounds, children and who have not been exposed to drugs. »


Many of these effects fade with time. Note, however, that the circumference of the head remains below normal in some children.

Project TIES, about 50 children were followed for nine months up to six years of age. Most of them were aged three to four years at the time of placement in their family for adoption. Sixty five percent of children had experienced several previous investments, 18% were placed 4 or 5 times.

Quotient (IQ) and development, cognitive or motor of children exposed to drugs is substantially the same as those of non-exposed children (to the exclusion of children affected by alcohol), if one compares children subjected to similar situations in terms of socio-economic status, nutrition, education, or cases of abuse or neglect.

Preschool and school-age children have non-negligible behavior problems. Many drug-exposed children show signs of hyperactivity, and the percentage of those taking Ritalin (mostly without showing symptoms of attention deficit due to hyperactivity) is higher than in the rest of the population. Some children were impulsive behaviour that might affect self-esteem and education. They may have difficulty of attention, arousal (easy stimulation) and emotional stability (anger). They may have difficulty getting a bad mood or angry without the aid of parents. However, it is difficult to know whether these effects are related to drug exposure during pregnancy or to factors associated with substance abuse as domestic violence, neglect, malnutrition or multiple placements. Parents must provide guidance and clear instructions, anticipating transitions and change and learn how to calm and soothe the child.

Prenatal drug exposure is associated with other high-risk factors which make difficult findings on the impact of this exhibition. For example:

  • Mothers have missed care during pregnancy and obtain a deficient diet for the child during the first years of his life;
  • Most addicts absorb combinations of drugs and sometimes abusing alcohol;
  • Social, demographic and psychological factors such as poverty and the stress of chaotic life experienced by drug addicts, as well as many moves have had an impact on the child.

These remarks are based on preliminary data from children with a documented exposure case, assessed by the project TIES in the second and twelfth month of their adoption (a third evaluation is planned for September 1999).

Researchers have identified a significant impact on most of the children. The quotient of development increased by 10% for almost half of them. Most children who were in a stimulating environment charged a significant increase in the i.q.

Internal problems such as depression and withdrawal, declined. Anxiety has decreased significantly. No change in the external behaviors, such as aggressiveness or attention deficit was noticed after 2 months. However, after 12 months, attention and concentration have improved for most children. This phenomenon is developed between the 2nd and 12th month, in parallel with increasing affection of parents for the child.

Drug-exposed children are far from being incurable monsters described by the media. In many respects, it is different from similar backgrounds, children and who have not been exposed to drugs. On the other hand, nothing can leave consider the result to what child whatsoever. Some children may get average results explained by multiple placements, abuse or neglect.Can help them by different interventions and providing stability. TIES aims to give parents and teachers the structure, clarity, and the feedback they need. Despite all the obstacles, and thanks to an appropriate support, families who adopt exposed children know success and happiness with their children.


Children exposed to drugs or alcohol in prenatal period: Weighing the Risks of Adoption by Susan Edelstein, one of the only books that addresses the topic focusing on the results of the adoption. AFABC bookstore or Odin editions. Price: $ 19.95. Call 1 800 223-6346


  1. This text by Helen Mark has published in Edition oct./nov.1999 of the magazine Focus on Adoption,revue de l'Association adoptive families of British Colombia.Is available in version originale anglaiseoriginal English under the title "Drug - Exposed Kids Thrive in Adoptive Homes '.
  2. The translation was made by Maryline Dhellemme.
  3. Copyright ©: Adoptive families of British Colombia Association: your resource for adoption centre. Tel: (604) 588-7300 or 1-877-ADOPT07. Fax: (604) 588-1388.
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