I remember the innocence of the days before we started fostering. When we seriously did not have any clue about the world that has people struggling with drug and alcohol addiction and the effects of those issues on children. We knew there were social issues sure but did we understand much of what all of this really meant…NO WAY!!! We had such blinders on. I had heard of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) but had never heard of Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) or many of the other issues that children who have ended up in foster care. I don’t know what I imagined as far as why a child might be in foster care. I don’t think I had any clue at all other than I still had that outlook of we will just love these children and show them acceptance and all will be well. We will help kids go home if possible and if not we will be there for them. This was all very nice but honestly very, extremely naive!!!!
Oh what we learned…some days I wish that I could go back to being so very naive. I now know how very common Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) is. How incredibly easily a child can be damaged in utero by alcohol. I know that in foster parent training there is so many things that need to be covered but honestly there needs to be better training preparing foster parents and pre-adoptive parents for the reality of FASD. The fact is that this issue is extremely common among children in care and in adoption situations. We can try to pretend this is not true but if people are honest it is. Do I have the ability to site studies? No I don’t. For some reason this is not being looked at. I think it would be staggering if we could actually study how many children who are adopted or come through foster care have some form of FASD. Now that being said not every child who is FASD is in care and not every child in care is FASD. I just think from what I have learned over 11 years of talking to people from all over the world that what we see in our state is not uncommon. Some places are better at getting kids diagnosed and some are not but truly with the advances in diagnosing more and more children are being diagnosed now.
What could we do to prepare families? The fact is that if we prepared families better we would see more success in the children who have FASD or RAD. The ability for a family to accept the special needs plays a huge role in the child growing up with good self esteem and the ability to overcome obstacles. I have had people say how we just seem to be able to accept our child’s diagnosis so well. The fact is that we knew before adoption what we were doing and what we were getting into that fact is what has helped us to overcome all the speedbumps along the way. I see other people who are struggling and hurting so badly because they feel they were not prepared or worse yet some feel they were lied to.
I know that every day I learn more. I learn from all of the wonderful families I am in contact with. These families humble me constantly. I learn from my children. I learn from the hate mail and the good mail I get. (you can never make everyone happy!) I learn from reading great research and from some not so great articles. The fact is that I have learned to just listen and be at peace with life. This is a skill my children have shown me. If I sweat it all I will age fast and miss much. Remember every single day is a new day! Life with FASD and life with RAD is hard but it can be wonderful too.