On Monday, we posted about about a form we’ve been working on that focuses on our willingness to raise a child of a different race / ethnicity from our own. That was page one. Page two of the same form started with questions about drug and alcohol use. Not our own use–the birthmother’s use.
Here are the questions, almost verbatim from the form:
Are you willing to have your profile information sent to a birthmother-to-be who admits to having used a substance, but has stopped during the first trimester? Check which substances. Your choices: alcohol, cocaine, heroin, marijuana, methamphetimines, prescription drugs.
Are you willing to have our profile information sent to a birthmother-to-be who admits to ongoing use of a substance? Check which substances (same list as above).
Or, no, right now, you are not willing to consider an adoption situation that involves substance abuse.
Wowee, tough questions. Especially for *A,* who counsels people who struggle with substance abuse on a regular basis and has a better-than-most understanding of the challenges involved.
I think most anybody’s knee-jerk reaction, especially after doing some super-basic internet research, is of course, to say no, we can’t take that risk.
But the decision is not so simple–there’s a lot to consider, a lot of variables: how much damage can be done in the first trimester? Is one drug any “better” (less bad?) than others in the first trimester? In the whole pregnancy? What problems might we be talking about? Is it just low birth weight? Or is it low birth weight and extreme agitation (in infancy), and ADHD and/or learning disabilities later on? What if they don’t know anything about how the drug affects pregnant women ? This is the case with meth, which is apparently so “new” in the scheme of things, no one knows all that much about it at all–which is particularly troubling, as the county we live in had the most meth lab busts of any county in the state last year. If the birthmother-to-be admitted to using any of the above-listed drugs in the first trimester–and that she stopped–how can we be sure she did, especially if she was addicted? What about relapses later in the pregnancy? What if she took up something else harmful instead? It’s hard to feel equipped to answer these questions, framed, as they are, in a check-the-box-for-what-you-think-you-can-handle kind of way.
We’ve been told that about 6% of pregnant women contacting our agency have substance abuse issues. I’m sure, too, that the worst-case-scenario is only rarely the reality. Some of the children born to birthmothers admitting substance use do have only minimal problems. But then there’s the ones who have big problems–at birth or later on, even perhaps throughout their lives.
In any case, deciding our level of comfort on this issue is a big deal, another one we aren’t taking lightly.