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What do I do when I find an adoptive baby has special problems possibly related to her mother’s drug use?

Dr. Peele,

We adopted a biracial baby girl named Francis, at birth, and have been noticing that she is not progressing like our other daughter. I know, Don't Compare, but she is different and can't really put our finger on it. We have her in a county program called First Steps in which she was evaluated by several therapists and we now have speech therapist come to our home once a week and a developmental therapist.

She is now 18 months old and can only say "baby" and that, only sometimes. I have been trying to teach her to "hug" and just recently she has allowed me to hold her hand when we move from one room to another. If we cough loud, sneeze or holler for a family member in another room. . . . she screams and cries and runs to me to be held! Now don't get me wrong. . . . she is happy and laughs a lot, but she bites, hits, pulls and pushes her older sister and is generally frustrated because she cannot communicate.

Last night, I called the birth mother and confronted her about drug and alcohol abuse during pregnancy . . . at first she balked, but when I asked her for honesty from one mother to another . . . she confessed. Now we love Francis no matter what may come, she is our baby, but I want to begin now to create a solid foundation of life for her and her needs. But I am not real sure what her needs are. Do I just let First Steps decide or is there something I can do or read or call, etc.

I have my doubts about trying to find a chat room for this situation, because I don't want to assume that Francis is an exact replica of someone else. Please . . . where should I begin to help her future life?

Blessings,
Jeanette


Dear Jeanette:

As I understand it, Francis has already been evaluated by a number of therapists and is seeing a developmental specialist. Thus, we may wonder if there is anything more that will be discovered. I am not a developmental specialist, but obviously you should begin with the professionals with whom you are already working to discover all further steps-assessments that can be taken. It would seem that you should get a thorough-going assessment – perhaps contact your hospital – for neurological/developmental issues.

You are thinking about this and dealing with Francis in a highly sensible way – whether the drug and alcohol use during pregnancy is the cause of the problem, or other things the birth mother did, or something else – all are a bit secondary at this point. Pending what other impairments you discover and what medical or professional assistance can be beneficial, you are working on the old question of a long, very long, relationship between mother and baby, acceptance and nurturance, love and bonding, encouragement and support, attention to Francis’s special needs. You seem to be a person who is capable of providing this special attention and care.

Stanton Peele