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Babies Born Addicted: What's Next?

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -

Michiana doctors report seeing more babies being born addicted to heroin. ABC 57’s Jess Arnold wanted to find out what happens next for these innocent infants.

“It’s rare to find a NICU these days without one of these babies in the NICU,” said a NICU neonatologist at the Memorial Hospital of South Bend, Kimberly Brathwaite.

Earlier in May, we shared with you one mother’s courageous story of battling her addiction to reunite with her baby boy.

But not all babies are as lucky—and doctors still aren’t sure how heroin will affect them down the road.

ABC 57’s Jess Arnold met one family who’s figuring it out as they go.

“We were matched with the birth mom, and we were made aware that she was under a methadone treatment program, which is basically a way to help her. She had been addicted to heroin…Once he was born, he also tested positive for cocaine,” said Heidi Meier, who adopted a baby born addicted to drugs.

Cases like Dash’s are becoming commonplace in Indiana.

A Community Health Network study found that one in five babies born in Indiana tested positive for drugs in their umbilical cords.

“I would say on average here at our NICU, we have one to two kids that are suffering from withdrawal at any one point in time,” said NICU neonatologist, Kimberly Brathwaite.

Doctors are well-versed in these effects.

“[Some of them are] jitteriness, fussiness, irritability, increased muscle tone, poor feeding,” said Dr. Brathwaite.

“It was definitely heartbreaking to see him, you know this little baby suffering from something that he did not cause himself,” said Meier.

But what happens years after they leave the NICU crib?

“There are people that are following these babies longer term, and unfortunately those babies are not old enough at this point, to be able to know exactly how it’s going to affect them later on in life,” said Dr. Brathwaite.

That scares away some prospective parents.

“I think there’s a fear of the unknown, as well as I don’t know what this could mean, my child isn’t perfect,” said Meier.

“Finding the right family can be a challenge. These infants are somewhat hard to place, because of the drug exposure,” said adoption attorney with Kirsh and Kirsh, PC, Grant Kirsh.

“Well, nobody’s perfect. So, I think that for us, we were just so happy and blessed that we have this little guy,” said Meier.

“There are not a lot of studies out that show how this type of withdrawal will affect babies in the future with addiction, but we think that a lot of those problems will be influenced by the social situation and what type of families they go home with,” said Dr. Brathwaite.

If that’s the case, it seems like two-year-old Dash, who’s now happy and healthy,  got very lucky.

“It can get messy at times, but we’re his parents, and we’re here, and we love him. At the end of the day, that’s really what it’s about,” said Heidi.

The adoption attorney from Indiana’s well-known firm Kirsh and Kirsh, PC says that in their 35 years of handling adoptions, this past year saw the most cases of drug-exposed and addicted babies by far.

ABC 57 spoke with about ten of these mothers from Michiana, and all of them said their babies have shown no developmental disabilities so far.

If you’d like some more info about adoption, you can click on the following links:

Kirsh and Kirsh, PC

DCS

AdoptUSKids

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