There is a time during the adoption process when we sat down with our social worker and went through the list.
The list was reasons why a child may have entered into the social care system was awaiting adoption.
This was a hard hitting, sobering session.
One of the issues we discussed was Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD). September is Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder Awareness Month which is why I am blogging about the issue, the leading know cause of learning disabilities.
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Of the children who are put up for adoption, very few are relinquished. That’s rare.
Most kids are in the care system because their parents can’t look after them, can’t keep them safe, they don’t have capacity to be a parent to that child.
Let’s just say spending too much time on your smartphone doesn’t count as neglect.
This session was probably one of the toughest we had experienced. Because, for us, it really started to hit home what our future children might have experienced. I remember feeling numb and shaken.
Like many people who proceed with adoption, we could not have kids, we wanted a family, and I was desperate for a child, and at that point any kid would do.
We talked about children who are affected by alcohol consumed during pregnancy.
Our social worker told us to have a long, hard think about this one. And really ask ourselves if we can cope with a child who may potentially a have Foetal Alcohol Spectral Disorder (FASD).
Foetal Alcohol Spectral Disorder
Foetal Alcohol Spectral Disorder (FSAD) is the umbrella name covering a range of disorders that results when the foetus is exposed to alcohol.
Alcohol is a teratogen. A substance that causes damage to a foetus and disrupts its development.
A child with FSAD may suffer may exhibit learning difficulties, Attention Deficit Order, even have problems with their heart.
- Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) is the leading known cause of learning disability
- Alcohol can cause more damage to an unborn baby than any other drug
- There is no known safe amount of alcohol during pregnancy
- Among siblings of children diagnosed with FASD, the severity increases with each successive child born to alcohol using mothers*
- There is anecdotal evidence that there is a lack of understanding about the condition among the medical profession at GP and Paediatric level*
- There is only one specialist unit in the UK which offers diagnosis of FAS/D
- FASD and other alcohol-related birth defects are 100 per cent preventable if a woman doesn’t drink during pregnancy
- FASD may not be detected at birth but can become apparent later in life and carries lifelong implications
*Source: Literature Review – Facing the challenge and shaping the future for primary and secondary aged students with Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FAS-eD Project)
Could I adopt a child with FSAD?
We were honest with ourselves, and decided that this was one of the few areas we knew we could not cope with.
I like the advice given by BCAdopt.com
Ask [yourself] not only, “Can I do this?” but also, “Should I do this?” Lots of people shouldn’t.
Some parents go ahead and take the risk because they desperately want to be parents but, for them, it isn’t the right decision—and then it’s the wrong decision for a child, too.
But we did choose to adopt two older siblings, this brought it own joys and challenges.
Is it a big problem?
No-one really know the rates of FSAD in the UK or across the rest of the world. And many children born with the condition don’t get a proper diagnosis.
But according to international studies, up to 1 in a 1000 children maybe born with Full Alcohol Foetal Syndrome and 85 in a 1000 children born with wider spectrum of disorders.*
There are a number of defining FSAD characteristics both physical, neurological and behavioural:
- Smaller head circumference
- Heart problems
- Limb damage
- Kidney damage
- Damage to the structure of the brain
- Eye problems
- Hearing problems
- Specific facial characteristics, including a flat nasal bridge, upturned nose, thin upper lip and smooth philtrum (the vertical groove between the upper lip and nose)
Neurological / behavioural
- Attention and memory deficits
- difficulty with abstract concepts (eg maths, time and money)
- Confused social skills
- Poor problem solving skills
- Difficulty learning from consequences
- Poor judgement
- Immature behaviour
- Poor impulse control
Treatment and diagnosis
Once diagnosed, it’s a case of living with the condition and managing the effects of the disorder.
Sadly there is only one specialist unit in the UK and it is one of the very few places that can confidently diagnose an Alcohol-Related Neurodevelopment Disorder.
But FSAD is preventable, by minimising alcohol consumption before and during pregnancy.
Drinking during pregnancy
According to the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists
“There is no proven safe amount of alcohol that you can drink during pregnancy. It is also often difficult to work out just how much you are drinking, especially if you have a drink at home. The only way to be certain that your baby is not harmed by alcohol is not to drink at all during pregnancy or while breastfeeding.”
For more information about drinking alcohol during pregnancy you can download their leaflet.
But how much is too much?
Now this is interesting.
The perception is that FASD is as a result of chronic alcoholism or binge drinking.
But an American Italian research study* looked at the drinking habits of women in Lazio.
Italian women aren’t known for hard drinking, and drinking alcohol consumption is mild but consistent, a part of everyday life. A nice glass of wine to accompany a delicious bowl of pasta.
And that’s what the study examined – if the effect of mild yet consistent alcohol consumption could cause damage to unborn infants.
Of the children studied, in Lazio, the rates of full-blown FAS were 3.7–7.4 per 1,000 children, and for FASD, 20.3−40.5 per 1,000, which is high.
This was a small study, and the results might well be disputed.
But does raise the question about moderate, socially accepted drinking patterns and the potential rate of FASD.
* Source: Literature Review – Facing the challenge and shaping the future for primary and secondary aged students with Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FAS-eD Project)
Can you drink while pregnant?
Talk to your doctor or midwife.
A few questions for you
- What advice were you given about drinking alcohol during pregnancy?
- Were you told about FASD?
- Have you adopted a child with FASD? Could you share your experience?
Further information about FASD