JPL-2011-39-1-07-Williams, Legal and Psychological Implications of Non-Disclosure in the Adoption of a Child with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder

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By SHARON JAMES WILLIAMS, J.D., M.P.H., DANIEL DUBOVSKY, M.S.W., AND JASON MERRITT, M.A.

Approximately 127,000 children were adopted in the United States
in 2000 and the same number in 2001. When adoptions go well,
the events that follow are mostly private family matters. On other
occasions, families discover that they have adopted a child who
is suffering from mental and/or physical ailments. In cases where
the adoptive parents are not aware of the child’s medical history,
adoptions can have unfortunate endings, including adoption
disruption, litigation, interfamily violence, and even death. This
article focuses on the issues involved when a family discovers
post-adoption that the child has Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder
(FASD). The article will first discuss the evolution of adoption
and disclosure in the United States, then provide background on
the nature of FASD and the difficulties of recognizing cases. The
article will then focus on (a) the psychological impact on parents
who have adopted a child who is found to have FASD and (b)
the impact of disclosure upon state, national, and international
law. The article concludes with recommendations for improving
disclosure standards and reducing the risk of FASD going
undetected and undisclosed in adoptive children.

Season: 
2011
Volume: 
39
Number: 
1
Keywords: 
FASD, adoption, nondisclosure

.SHARON JAMES WILLIAMS, J.D., M.P.H. is an attorney and a
public health professional with over 13 years of experience providing
management and policy support to federal Public Health initiatives.

DAN DUBOVSKY, M.S.W. has worked for over 35 years in the field of mental health.

ASON MERRITT, M.A. is a doctoral applicant in Instructional Leadership at the College of
Notre Dame of Maryland in Baltimore.