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The Must-Knows of Birth Parent Substance Use

And How American Adoptions Handles It

Potential birth parents come from all different types of social, racial and financial backgrounds. Many are facing personal challenges when they learn of their unplanned pregnancies, and sometimes, those difficulties include substance use or addiction.

While most expectant parents who work with American Adoptions don’t use drugs or alcohol during their pregnancies, those who are coping with substance abuse issues will occasionally need our assistance.

This can leave some hopeful adoptive families feeling anxious because they, understandably, want to make sure the baby they adopt is healthy and safe. Below, you can discover what you need to know about birth parent substance use and how American Adoptions handles it.

If you want to learn more about the must-knows of birth parent substance use, or if you are ready to begin your own adoption journey today, you can contact American Adoptions now at 1-800-ADOPTION for additional free information. 

How American Adoptions Screens Expectant Parents

We work hard to find the right adoption opportunity for every member of the adoption triad:

  • The hopeful adoptive family

  • The prospective birth parent

  • The baby

This includes ensuring you are comfortable with any substance exposure in your baby’s background.

From the very first phone call, every expectant parent who contacts American Adoptions begins developing a relationship with their own adoption specialist. Our professional will be there to:

  • Answer any and all questions

  • Guide them through the adoption process

  • Personally get to know them and their goals for their baby.

This one-on-one relationship is the foundation of our birth parent screening process. Throughout every prospective birth parent’s adoption process, their adoption specialist will:

  • Gauge their commitment to their adoption plan

  • Assess the care they are taking of themselves and their baby

  • Encourage them to live a healthy lifestyle

  • Assist them in accessing prenatal care, if possible

  • Work with them to complete a detailed Social Medical History form, which includes self-disclosed information about their family medical history, substance use and more

This screening process, while thorough, may raise some questions for hopeful adoptive families: If it is up to the pregnant parent to disclose drug or alcohol use on her own, what if they aren’t honest?

Why Aren't Pregnant Parents Drug Tested?

Successful adoptions are built on trust — trust within the adoption triad, as well as trust between the prospective birth parent and their adoption professional.

As an agency, we have found that required drug screening often undermines this trust, leading to unsuccessful adoptions for everyone involved.

As American Adoptions’ screening procedures have evolved over the years, we have learned that required drug testing is ineffective for a number of reasons:

Most Pregnant Parents Don’t Use Drugs or Alcohol during Pregnancy

Most prospective birth parents who work with our agency don’t use drugs or alcohol during pregnancy. And when American Adoptions completed drug screenings in the past, the expectant parents were often offended.

The result was a sense of distrust and disrespect that negatively impacted the adoption process. By removing the drug screening requirement, American Adoptions is more attractive to prospective birth parents. This leads to many advantages, such as

  • More adoption opportunities for hopeful adoptive families

  • Quicker placements

  • More positive adoption relationships that are built on trust and respect

Prospective Birth Parents Are Uncomfortable with Drug Testing

Required drug screening can be intimidating, and many prospective birth parents would feel pressured to “pass” the drug test to complete the adoption process.

This could potentially cause some expectant parents to use deceptive techniques or manipulate the results in order to complete the drug screening requirement.

On the other hand, most prospective birth parents are more comfortable having open, honest and confidential conversations with their adoption specialist — someone who cares about them and just wants to help them make the best possible plan for their baby.

Those who work with our agency know that any information they provide to us is strictly confidential, and disclosing drug or alcohol use to us will not result in judgment or punishment.

There Is a Family for Every Baby

We believe that for every baby, the right family is out there.

Because we don’t require drug testing, prospective birth parents feel comfortable working with us regardless of their circumstances. No matter what is in their social or medical history, we will provide the same quality of services to help them find the perfect family for their baby.

As a result, this should lead to more placements and shorter wait times for hopeful adoptive parents.

American Adoptions’ screening policies and procedures have been developed over our 30 years of experience, and we believe that our system now is the most effective way of screening potential birth parents and finding the right adoptive family for each baby. 

You Determine What You’re Comfortable With

As an adoptive parent, it is up to you to choose what substance exposure in your child you are comfortable with. This will be among the many factors you consider as you complete your Adoption Planning Questionnaire.

As you finish the APQ, you should carefully research the effects different substances can have on a developing baby so you can then make educated decisions.

Your adoption specialist will use the preferences you outline in your APQ to search for potential adoption opportunities that may be a good fit for your family. When a prospective birth parent chooses you to adopt their baby, the adoption specialist will provide you with her Social Medical History information, including any self-disclosed information about drug or alcohol use.

Keep in mind: The more open you are to a wide variety of adoption opportunities, the shorter your adoption wait time will likely be.

How American Adoptions Handles Undisclosed Substance Use

Most potential birth parents are comfortable with our screening process and are open and honest about any substance use. But, on rare occasions, an expectant parent’s adoption specialist may become aware of undisclosed substance use after they have chosen an adoptive family.

Additionally, a baby may be born with substance exposure that American Adoptions wasn’t initially aware of. So, how do we handle those cases?

American Adoptions always strives to find adoption opportunities that fit within a family’s APQ. Our goal is to find a family for every baby who is comfortable with that baby’s particular background, including any in-utero drug or alcohol exposure.

If a baby has been exposed to substances that are outside of your APQ, you can decline that adoption opportunity.

Your adoption specialist will talk to you in depth about the potential effects of this substance exposure on the baby, and you will be able to decide how you want to move forward.

Because our goal is to get every baby into their perfect forever home, we always encourage prospective birth parents to be honest and upfront about any substance use.

Even if an expectant parent is not making the healthiest lifestyle choices for themselves, they are making a loving, courageous choice when they consider adoption for their baby. This is something American Adoptions respects and admires, regardless of their circumstances.

For more information about the must-knows of birth parent substance use, you can contact American Adoptions now at 1-800-ADOPTION.  

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Information available through these links is the sole property of the companies and organizations listed therein. America Adoptions, Inc. provides this information as a courtesy and is in no way responsible for its content or accuracy.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Do we need to retain our own attorney?

No, American Adoptions has established relationships with some of the best adoption attorneys in the nation. Because adoption laws vary from state to state and between counties, it is important to utilize the services of an adoption attorney who specializes in the state where the adoption will finalize, which is unknown until you match with an expectant mother. You have the right to retain your own attorney, but doing so may be an additional, unnecessary expense.

Can we choose the gender of our baby?

American Adoptions does not allow gender specificity in adoption. Any family who wishes to be gender-specific in their adoption should contact us at 1-800-ADOPTION and ask about the possibility of an exception waiver before taking any other steps toward adoption with our agency. Any families who do receive an exception to be gender-specific may also incur an additional fee, which helps cover the additional advertising costs of such a request.

Please note that gender specificity will likely increase your wait time significantly.

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