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>Prevalence of Alcohol Exposure in Korean Adoption

March 25, 2011

>While the incidence of prenatal alcohol exposure in children adopted from Korea has varied over time, with the increase of domestic adoption in Korea, the prevalence of prenatal alcohol exposure in Korean children referred for International adoption continues to rise. Recent estimates by U.S. placement agencies range from 75-90% of all referrals have alcohol exposure as a background factor. That means that the majority of adopted Korean children could be considered at risk for developing clinical FASD.

Here, in FAQ format, are some answers to questions commonly asked by parents who are concerned that their child may be as risk for developing FASD. The answers are excerpted from a 2005 article, Prenatal Alcohol and Drug Exposures in Adoption by Julian K. Davies and Julia M. Bledsoe.

What is the prevalence of drinking in the age group of women most likely to place a child for adoption in Korea?
“Alcohol consumption among young women in South Korea is also on the rise. It is estimated that the number of female drinkers there has increased by 3% a year since 1995, mostly because of the increased presence of women in the work force. The percentage of Korean college students who have one to three drinks per week is 96.4%, with little difference between the sexes; drinking is viewed as a good way to build social ties.” Davies and Bledsoe (2005), 1371.
Can anyone tell from the referral photos if the child will have an FASD?
“It is far more difficult to assess a child’s potential risk of FASDs when the facial features are not extreme. For example, it is possible for an individual who is prenatally exposed to alcohol to have a completely normal facial phenotype. These individuals should still be considered at risk for learning and behavioral problems, which may be as severe as the problems faced by individuals with a FAS facial phenotype. When the FAS facial features are fully present, it is reasonable to conclude that prenatal alcohol exposure had an adverse impact on fetal development.” Davies and Bledsoe (2005), 1375.
The child’s development is reported to be fairly normal so far. Is that hopeful for the future?
“…Like Baby A, Baby B’s development is also reasonable for her age when adjusted for prematurity. This early development is not a good predictor of long term cognitive development for either child, however. Difficulties in behavioral regulation, language, memory, problem solving, and higher order thought processes (including ‘‘executive functioning’’) may not appear until later in life. Both children should be followed closely for learning and behavior issues related to prenatal substance exposure, prematurity, postnatal events, and family history. Given the family histories disclosed, both children have their own risk of substance abuse later in life.” Davies and Bledsoe (2005), 1387.
“For children of adoption, it is sobering to consider how these substance exposures, in combination with other social and biologic risks, may make affected children more vulnerable to the adverse effects of malnutrition, neglect, abuse, multiple placements, or institutionalization. At a minimum, it seems less likely that early neurobehavioral problems can be repaired in such environments. Conversely, adopted children are typically received into loving and nurturing homes with motivated and resourceful parents. This is a remarkable intervention in and of itself, affording children with multiple vulnerabilities the opportunity for catch-up growth and development, formation of stable and secure attachments, early diagnosis of primary disabilities, appropriate services, and prevention of secondary disabilities. The lifelong impact of this care-giving trajectory on the long-term effects of prenatal alcohol and drug exposures remains to be seen.” Davies and Bledsoe (2005), 1388.
One Comment leave one →
  1. March 25, 2011 4:10 pm

    >Thanks for sharing this – it's an important factor for parents to be aware of when considering adoption. Not to stop adoption – but to encourage good education ahead of time.

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