If You (or a Loved One) Plan to Adopt a Child With FASD

Bookmark and Share

I hope that you (or your family member who plans to adopt) will be given extensive training (by the adoption agency or facilitator) about FASD prior to adoption.

I know what it is like to desperately want to adopt a child. It is equally important to know what you're (or your family member) is getting into.

Is your (or your loved one's) adoption foreign or domestic? If you (or they) have been made aware of the FASD diagnosis, I suspect the adoption is most likely domestic. Our's was a foreign adoption in 2000, and our son's diagnosis of FASD was a very expensive after-shock.

If the agency or facilitator is forthright about the child's FASD, are they equally forthright about picking up the costs of future therapies and treatments for the child's FASD? FASD is very expensive in the long run, and you will never know in advance the degree of deficits or what challenges may pop up. Do you (or your loved one) have excellent insurance coverage? Will the state pick up any additional costs? Will there be a commitment to provide your daughter with frequent needed respite? FASD is a 24/7 diagnosis and your (or your loved one's) potential burnout should be prevented. Some FASD kids need one-to-one parenting 24 hours /day

I urge getting all of this in writing as part of the adoption agreement. Be careful that by being made aware of the FASD diagnosis prior to adoption that the state cannot later argue that you (or your family member) was aware of the FASD diagnosis, and therefor is solely responsible for all of the additional costs attached to adopting a special-needs child. Get it in writing now, so you (or they) don't have to argue about it later when you (or they) no longer have any bargaining strength

Sorry to sound so grim, but it's better to understand what you (or your family member) will be facing squarely. And it'll be easier to live your (or your loved one's) life and enjoy the child when you (or they) feel like you (or they) don't have to fight to obtain needed treatments, or you (or they) just plain can't afford to hire and pay a specialist, such as a psychologist or occupational therapist

And then, the parents still face the adoption challenge.

I would never give up my (FASD-affected) son. He's one of the great loves of my life. He is also the hardest, most exhausting work I have ever done. Had I known in advance, I would still adopt him, but I would have built protections against family financial hardship into the adoption agreement.

Tell yourself (or your loved one) to give your (their) heart, that's what it's for. The child (with FASD) will badly need love.

Parenting a child with FASD is an experience that has forced all of us to connect with the best and worst of ourselves and others. It's also like being on a roller-coaster ride for life; and there is no getting off. I advise you (your loved one) to build in safeguards so that you (or they) can get off the roller-coaster for needed brief rests and hire professional help.

May you all be blessed for stepping up to this challenge.

From a mom named Shirley

It is difficult to tell much about the child with FASD without knowing more about her now.

Each child affected by FASD is unique. One parent's story will not at all be your (or your family member's) story, or the story of this child. 

I know that every word you are saying is true. I have always wished that I had known my daughter had FASD and I could have helped her more and not just have viewed her as a rebellious, bratty, teenaged kid.

But, tonight I realized that it is a huge blessing that I did not know my daughter had this condition, because I know that I would have been afraid to adopt her. What a shame that would have been. Today, at age 38, my daughter is one of the greatest joys of my life. I could never have a more loving and kind daughter. She lives several hours away and has given us three wonderful grandchildren. She is respectful and calls me several times a week just to chat. Yes, her life is difficult sometimes, and I don't always agree with her choices, but she is a beautiful, talented and capable woman.

We survived the terrible years from 12 to 20, with the suicide attempts, the drug and alcohol abuse, the quitting school, getting into trouble with the law, and the teen pregnancy. Today I can say that it was worth it all.

I do wish I had known when puberty came and like a light switch, she became the poster child for FASD, and we didn't have a clue what was wrong. But as far as knowing before we adopted her? I am glad that we did not know.


I do hope that the prospective parents ask questions.

Where was this child diagnosed? What did the diagnosis show? What recommendations were given? What difficulties does this child have now? Can the new parents meet with the team who made the diagnosis? What trauma has this child been exposed to?

As a parent of a child with FASD, I know that the more you (or your family member) know now about FASD, the more you (or they) will be able to help her.

The one resource who helped me the most as a parent is Diane Malbin, MSW. If at least one of the new parents can come to one of Diane's workshops, this would be a valuable recommendation. Her book, "Trying Differently Rather than Harder" is a good start.

From a mom named Peg