Saturday, October 13, 2012

Why I Have No Use for Alcohol or Drugs.

I was reminded recently why I have almost no use for alcohol or drugs, beyond the alcohol that is found in a bottle of vanilla or used to disinfect.

We had the opportunity last week to attend San Diego County Adoption’s Fall Fest.  It is an event in which kids that are a little harder to place for adoption are showcased via profiles and pictures to families with approved home studies who are on the list waiting to adopt.  Here’s basically how it adoption preferences go.  An newborn Caucasian girl is the most requested placement.  Next is other newborns, followed by infants under two, followed by children under five.  Then, somewhere in there are sibling groups of two or more along with older kids and special needs children in no particular order.  The bigger the sibling group, the older the child (or children) and/or the greater their special needs, the harder they are to place.  And so it goes.  The Fall Fest showcased all those groups except individual kids under the age of five who had no special needs (meaning some type of handicap, whether physical, mental or some of both—not meaning general development/emotional issues that often come with neglect, abuse or the other myriad of reasons children find their way into the system).  The only time a child under five was showcased was as part of a sibling group.

There were more than fifty kids or sibling groups showcased that night.  They gave us each a packet to take home so that we could think about the kids we were interested in and look at their information again to decide if we wanted to move forward.  The particulars are private to families waiting to adopt, but I wanted to share a few things that stuck with me, and will share in general terms to respect that privacy.
The one thing that stood out to me as I read through these profiles is that, almost without fail, the reason these kids had been removed from their homes was due, in some part, to substance abuse.  I am so tired of hearing people argue that drugs and alcohol are no big deal because they are only harming their own bodies.  While that may be the intent, and it may be the case for some, for many people, there are innocent victims.  The abuses laid down in these profiles would make anyone cringe.  There was neglect, physical, sexual and emotional abuse, kids exposed to drugs and alcohol, and kids exposed to sexually explicit materials and/or things occurring in their own homes.  There were kids whose permanent physical and/or emotional conditions resulted in decisions made by parents under the influence.  There were kids who have had little to no contact with parents since being taken into custody because those parents can’t get it together enough to even make one visit in months.  In almost every case, all of these problems were brought on by drug and/or alcohol abuse.  Did you know that the worst thing that a pregnant mother can do is drink alcohol?  Did you know that with almost every drug, most of the damage caused in utero can be reversed or adjusted to as the child grows, but damage from alcohol, such as Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, is permanent and irreversible?  Cocaine, heroin, meth....none of them hold a candle to the damage caused by alcohol to a fetus.  Don't get me wrong, drugs are damaging, but in comparison to what alcohol can do--the supposedly less harmful substance--it's not even a close race.

I do feel for these parents with substance abuse problems.   Many of them grew up in similar circumstances.  I once heard a mom whose kids had been taken away from her tell how she had been exposed to drugs so early on, that she had done her first line of cocaine at the age of five.  She was pregnant with her first child by thirteen, and the father was in his thirties.  Her second child by the same man came along just a couple of years later.  She eventually pulled her life together and got her boys back and is doing well now.  I do have compassion for these parents, but, our kids need to be protected, whether we have compassion for their abusers or not.  Did you know that seventy percent of prisoners in California were in foster care at some point?  It’s an incredible statistic.

I don’t have all the statistics on alcohol and drug use, but I have enough to know that I have no use for any of it.  I have had struggles in my life and made choices I was not proud of, so know that I am not standing in judgment.  But this was one thing I never desired.  I never understood the draw of being so far gone that you would not have control over what might happen to you.  That never appealed to me.  My religion has a health code that includes abstaining from alcohol and illegal drugs as well as tobacco.  There was a time in my youth when I adhered to this health code mostly because that was what I had been taught.  But, I have had the truth of that health code confirmed to me time and time again through my own experiences and the experiences of those around me.  I believe it now more than ever.  

I know there are many people who drink responsibly out there.  I don’t think there is any responsible use for illegal drugs, and sometimes for legal ones.  That belief has been solidified by seeing the effects of these things on our children.  The misuse of drugs and alcohol have had devastating effects on children all over the world, whether through too early exposure or through abuse and neglect heaped on them because of the substance abuse of their parents or others around them.  I wish everyone could read these profiles and see where that abuse has led these children--the innocent bystanders of those who think they are only damaging their own bodies.  I only hope that people will see past the inherent problems that this abuse may have caused in these children and welcome the opportunity to adopt one.  Having a three-year-old at home has limited what we are willing to take on, as his safety has to be a major priority (this is something I will discuss in another post).  But if you are just starting out and are waiting for your first child, or maybe have grown children and are starting over, I hope you will research the option of adopting an older child or sibling group or a special needs child.  You might be surprised at how the reward may far outweigh the work.

***If you are considering adoption an older child, please read my post "How Long Are We Parents?"

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for sharing this. Working in Labor & Delivery, we see the effects on the mothers and their babies. It is terrible that innocent little beings can't stand up for themselves. I've seen some pretty awful things and all you said was true.

    Bless the parents who adopt these children because their entire lives are lifetime commitments to caring for those harmed and often unwanted children.