Tips for Families Considering NAS or Alcohol-Affected Babies


Special Needs Database
  1. Work with informed professionals in adoption agencies that the community regards as offering quality adoption services.
  2. Take the time to explore your own feelings about substance abuse in general and your experiences with substance abuse—in your own personal background, with family and friends, and in the work place.
  3. Take the time to explore your own feelings about birth families who abuse alcohol and other drugs, and particularly about women who abuse alcohol or drugs during pregnancy.
  4. Spend time with your social worker discussing the child's background with respect to the birth parents' alcohol or other drug abuse and their related lifestyle so that you have a realistic picture.
  5. Ask for written summaries of the child's diagnoses and any medical complications, the treatment services that have been and are being provided, and the follow up care that the child will need.
  6. Ask for information on the services and resources in the community that will be available to help meet the child's ongoing needs. Explore the child's eligibility for adoption subsidies and/or health coverage.
  7. Obtain as much information as possible on how to reduce the impact of the child's biological risks through promoting a nurturing, responsive, and healthy caregiving environment.
  8. Recognize that you must be prepared for and able to tolerate the uncertainties and ambiguities that are part of adopting a child who was prenatally exposed to drugs and alcohol.
  9. Resist portrayals of children prenatally exposed to drugs or alcohol as "walking time bombs" or "oblivious to affection." Such labels overlook the individuality of each child and overemphasize problems as stemming from a single source—prenatal substance exposure—when other factors [culture, environment, supports, caregiving] need to be recognized.
  10. Recognize the importance of timely identification of problems and the helpfulness of early interventions and services.

Adapted from: Susan Edelstein, Children with Prenatal Alcohol and/or Other Drug Exposure: Weighing the Risks of Adoption. Washington, DC: CWLA Press, 1995. Source:  The Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute (adoption research and studies):