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Monday, 25 October 2010

Theory, Reality, and Acceptable Risk, Part 2

Way back on June 14, I wrote about risk in adoption, particularly when the parent hopes to adopt a healthy child who is developmentally on target and does not present with significant "issues" overall:

"When signing up to adopt a healthy infant through international adoption, I wonder to what extent adoptive parents REALLY consciously consider the unknowns and say "yes" to those possibilities. You know, anything from attachment issues to genetic/organic developmental delays which might not be immediately apparent, to unknown biological family mental health histories which could surface in our children. I suppose anyone who has a child, no matter how that happens, is saying "yes" to some of those risks, and to others, and hopefully in a conscious way...

...In international adoption, things are complicated in part due to the possibility of very limited family and developmental history, and the inability to meet and interact with a child before adoption decisions are finalized..."

Having dipped a toe or two into the domestic public adoption world, things look different. Essentially every child profile contains at least an inkling of "issues" - whether due to trauma, pre-natal substance exposure, multiple caregivers, developmental and genetic conditions, or other factors. Unlike in international adoption, the "yes" parents say to various possibilities in public adoption is more direct, more intentional. Sure, in international adoption, parents specify openness to possible issues, but I am still thinking more here about the unknowns...the things that cannot be seen or predicted.

Perhaps it is empowering for parents to have this kind of background information about their child. It certainly forces a prospective parent to move beyond the hypothetical "yes", to making an active decision to consider various factors. And at the same time, I wonder if availability of choice also complicates things - causing us to over-think issues or let doubt creep in.

One of the big factors in many public adoption situations is the known, suspected, or unknown (meaning, it cannot be ruled out) use of substances, including alcohol, by the mother during pregnancy. Fetal alcohol-related disorders and symptoms certainly vary from child to child, but can be unpredictable. Long lists of possible difficulties are easily available. And, FASD cannot be ruled out in the early years, even if the child does not currently demonstrate any signs. I will admit that it all sounds a bit frightening.

And then...I consider how serious attachment difficulties, trauma-related behaviours, and other issues can also sound/be quite intense and overwhelming as well. But by signing up for international adoption, I have said "yes" to the possibility of any of these things.

Today, though, I am curious about FASD, mostly because it is something I haven't spent as much time contemplating and researching, having focused more on development, post-birth trauma, and attachment, among other topics. Is FASD more of a monster than developmental delay, trauma-related issues, attachment disorder, or other issues that might creep up unexpectedly? Is it something to say "no" to, even if the answer to the other possible issues is "yes"? And...if FASD seems to big or scary, then I suspect the "yes" to potential attachment and trauma issues should be re-evaluated, too. And I'm not saying it is too much, I'm just wanting to think it all through, and maybe hear some other thoughts.

I have always wanted to adopt. I believe that I realize many of the risks, but don't want those to stop me from experiencing the potential beauty as well. I don't believe we are meant to play it safe and protect ourselves from challenges in life...but I also know we need to be wise, recognizing our strengths, and also seeing where others may be better suited to the task at hand.

It's up for discussion, now, folks...


Hi from Ruth! said...

I wish I could participate in the discussion but I don't know a whole lot about FAS or FAE; I'm hoping others comment so that I can learn a bit more about it.

Blessings, Joy.


kmcaffee said...

The unknowns are very scary, but like a pregnancy, you can't let yourself get caught up in all the "what if's". You can plan, read, be educated, but you will never, ever be fully prepared for any life-changing situation, right? Sometimes it just boils down to one great big, huge leap of faith!

kristen said...

Well Joy...thanks for leaving the helpful comment/info on my blog page!! I definitely understand and agree with both sides!! Anyhow..love your messenger bags!! So, where are you in the process?? would love to chat more..kristen www.leapoflove.blogspot.com

Sharla said...

I'm chiming into this discussion really late, but having adopted both within Canada and Internationally, it is interesting that in one case, you are accepting certain Special Needs up front and in the other case, there are way more unknowns. Two of our kids have official Special Needs. We knew about them before we signed the adoption papers but not before we got the kids as we fostered them before completing the adoptions. By the time we signed the papers, we were fully aware of what we were getting into. One of the Special Needs that is mentioned in your post is one of the Special Needs that one of our kids has (if you want to ask specific questions, I am happy to share - just e-mail me).

For our International adoption, our kids don't officially have Special Needs, but there were significant attachment and trauma issues, obvious language barriers, and I am sure that malnutrition played a role in their development.