“…drug testing largely spotlights the substances that harm adults– not the ones that harm the infants. Alcohol, for instance, is not illegal and it won’t turn up in a drug test, but it is one of the most dangerous substances fora fetus. The so-called crack babies, on the other hand, have grown up- and the dire predictions about them proved false. A review in the Journal of the American Medical Association of thirty-six studies that looked at physical growth, cognition, language and motor skills, behavior, attention, affect, and neurophysiology found no connection between prenatal exposure to cocaine and a decrease in functioning.”
I am reading a book by Cris Beam, To the End of June: The Intimate Life of American Foster Care. I am only about 1/4 of the way through the book, so I don’t know if I would recommend it yet, but it’s certainly a very interesting read (I’m reading it because it was given to me free by Amazon’s Vine program, for the purpose of review). She was in a dysfunctional home as a child, so dysfunctional she left of her own volition when she was 14. She was never in foster care, but that’s because she fell through the cracks of the system, keeping quiet about how bad things were at home. As an adult, she has been a foster parent (she is gay and seems to focus on fostering ‘transgender’ teens), and her book is about the foster care system and the children growing up in it.
The author writes about another study, “the longest longitudinal study on cocaine-exposed babies (thousands of babies are now in their late teens),” and notes the doctor who did that study is now studying meth babies. He has 450 of them he’s been studying long enough that they have now started school. He says there are some problems- they have trouble with feeding issues as infants, but by and large before school, they mostly match with their peers whose mothers did not take drugs. When they hit school, they are more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD and ‘failure in behavioral control becomes more obvious.’ He says largely, they are not seeing the total disasters they expected, even when take into account poverty and foster care. there are problems with poor inhibitory control, but, again, not so extreme as they expected.
He also studied kids in foster care. What really breaks my heart is that he found that being removed from their original homes also ‘affects the prefrontal cortex’ and results in ’poor inhibitory control,’ just as drugs do. Obviously, some kids need to be removed anyway, because much worse things are going to happen to them if they stay in those homes. However, this research contradicts the ‘better safe than sorry’ mindset that opines it’s okay to remove children from homes ‘just in case,’ because- it’s actually not a safe choice for the child, just for that reason alone- the terror of that disruption damages the prefrontal cortex, this may be fixable, but why risk it unnecessarily? And why on earth call it ‘safe?’ It’s like a serious surgery- naturally, sometimes you have to risk that surgery for the good of your child, but you don’t perform that surgery on everybody just because ‘it’s better safe than sorry,’ not even if you might have cause to be worried.
Both of my youngest children were in a car accident at the same time, and both had problems with their vital signs afterward- they mimicked each other, with our daughter’s symptoms following our son’s by about an hour. He had exploratory surgery to uncover the problem, and it turned out to be a small tear in one of his organs. They were concerned that she might have the same injury, but she also has an unusual scarring condition and is not a good candidate for exploratory surgery, so they chose instead to wait and just monitor her more closely- and in the end, she didn’t need the surgery. For him, better safe than sorry merited the exploratory surgery. For her, better safe than sorry meant closer monitoring, and watching closely for signs of improvement, or signs of something going wrong.
For children investigated by CPS, some of them merit immediate removal, even though the removal itself is not a harmless, risk-free, or ‘safe’ procedure. For others, it’s best to leave them where they are, perhaps with better monitoring, or perhaps not- this would have to be determined on a case by case basis. There is no such thing as ‘better safe than sorry’ with foster care. It’s a question of which risk is the greatest, weighing a known side effect against a speculative one. Sadly, we’re dealing with human lives and human error, so there is no perfect formula which will prevent mistakes. At any rate, it’s the opinion of Doctor Lester (who has done these studies) that it’s a mistake to remove children from the parents in the delivery room only because of newborn drug test results. He thinks it would be better to treat the addiction as a mental health issue and provide the mother with support for both parenting and help with the addictions. He says of course, not all addicted mothers will overcome and be adequate parents, but he points out that lots of non-addicted mothers are also inadequate parents, abusive, and neglectful.
Another problem with removing newborns from their mothers in the delivery room because of drug tests is that ‘the newborn drug tests,’ according to the author, ’are wrong on average more than 25% of the time.’ In addition, kids *in* the foster care system are more likely to be abused or neglected in those foster homes than the average population *not* in foster care- something else the author points out again and again. Sometimes it is the foster parents doing the abusing, but sometimes it’s also other foster kids in the same home- either way, the kid who is removed from one home on a ‘better safe than sorry’ basis is subjected to some level of certain damage to the pre-frontal cortex, and to an uncomfortably high probability of being abused in foster care. She’s not opposed to foster care at all, and there are outstanding foster parents, and plenty of kids who need to be there, and who need those excellent foster parents. But the system is clearly flawed.
At this stage, I’m still reading all the different ways the system is flawed. I don’t know yet if she has a solution. I’m not really sure there is one, of by ‘solution’ we mean a perfect world where no children are ever harmed. BTW, ‘Crying it out’ practices also put the brain under the same stress and seem to cause the same damage- and kids left to cry it out are more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD, just as are children born to drug addicted mothers, and kids in foster care.