As any parent will tell you, newborns require a lot of care. Newborns exposed to addictive substances in utero, or pos-tox, doubly so. Over 85% of the infant cases referred to CASA of Santa Cruz involve a baby born pos-tox. And so, in honor of Foster Care Awareness Month, we would like to celebrate the Foster (Resource) Families that take on the extremely challenging task of caring for these high-needs infants.
Birth Parents with Substance Abuse Disorder often do not have the proper resources and support for treatment and often times continue to use during pregnancy. The resulting shame of which can be so great that they avoid much needed prenatal care all together. If they have had previous interactions, they may also do so to avoid the attention Family and Children’s Services (FCS). However, once the parent does arrive at a hospital, FCS may be notified if the parent previously had a baby with prenatal drug exposure, demonstrates any erratic behavior, honestly answers intake questions confirming drug use, or if the baby shows symptoms. All of which may result in a removal.
Resource Families that bring home these newborn babies face significant challenges. Constant attention and patience are required. Babies exposed to drugs in utero have excessive, high-pitched cries associated with withdrawal. Typical soothing techniques simply don’t work on these infants. They run the risk of seizures and require constant monitoring. Withdrawal medications need to be administered every four hours for an average of 6 months. Extreme diaper rash and skin issues demand extra care. And to address feeding issues, visits to occupational therapists may be necessary, as well as many regular visits to pediatricians for check-ups and assessments.
The emotional toll on Resource Families is no less challenging. Such attention and love required for the baby to survive and thrive creates a profound bond. While it is indeed the ideal scenario, an infant returning to their birth family can still cause an intense grieving process for Resource Families. And for many cases, the Resource Families go on to support the birth family and baby. With the early intervention that the Resource Families provide, those babies born pos-tox can go on to recover and develop at normal rates.
We here at CASA of Santa Cruz don’t think that it’s hyperbole to say that Resource Families welcoming a child, but especially a one with prenatal drug exposure, into their home is no less than an act of exceptional love and heroism. From us to you, thank you for all you do.