Most commonly the largest risk factor for our children is the prenatal period. For some children their lack of prenatal care leads to developmental delays, for others their exposure to substances can lead to low birthweight and other complications.
One of the most common risk factors prenatally is drug and alcohol use by the birth mother. There are varying risks, depending on what substance was used and when in the pregnancy it was consumed. For many of the children we place, the risk is that we do not know what the long-term impact will be for the child. We may know that a child is functioning very well in their early years, for example, but we cannot guarantee that difficulties will not develop, when the child becomes of school-age and beyond, with respect to growth & development, learning or behaviour issues.
Although we try our best to obtain the most complete information from the birth mother – the information may not always be truthful or accurate. The amount or frequency of alcohol consumption during pregnancy is not always a reliable indicator of the degree of brain damage that may occur. Consequently, minimal exposure to alcohol, for example, does necessarily mean minimal outcomes. By age 5 – we may be starting to see the effects of drug or alcohol prenatal exposure but not necessarily the whole picture. An adoptive parent needs to be prepared to make a commitment without always knowing the eventual outcome.