Abuse of methamphetamine by pregnant women is a significant cause of concern among health practitioners due to the effects of prenatal and postnatal exposure of children to the drug. Scientific research on the impact of prenatal methamphetamine exposure illustrates the adverse effects of the drug on the gestational age and birth weight.
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Children of methamphetamine addicts exhibit the characteristic of early gestational age in comparison to unexposed children. Similarly, the average birth weight of infants exposed to methamphetamine is significantly lower than that of their unexposed counterparts (Buckner et al., 2013).
Another effect of methamphetamine exposure is the increased likelihood of premature delivery, which increases the vulnerability of infants to premature-birth risk factors, as evidenced by the case of baby Kim. Other effects of prenatal methamphetamine exposure include fetal distress, increased instances of cardiac defects, the formation of cleft lips, and incidences of biliary atresia.
As a stimulant of the central nervous system, methamphetamine alters the balance of essential body chemicals such as dopamine and serotonin. The chemical nature of methamphetamine allows the compound to cross the placenta with great ease so that it alters the fetal environment and enters the developing fetus bloodstream.
Scientific research shows that methamphetamine induces vasoconstriction, which alters the flow of uteroplacental blood and pressure around the fetal environment. Vasoconstriction effects and altered blood flow and stress increase the chances of the occurrence of prenatal stroke or damages of vital organs such as the heart, which may relate to intracranial bleeding evident in baby Kim (Melo et al., 2006).
Methamphetamine exposure alters the mental, emotional, and behavioral development of children because of alterations in the standard cognitive, language, and motor functions. In this regard, children may expose signs of sleep disturbances and behavioral problems due to the mimicking of neurotransmitters, which may aggravate to impaired perceptual processing and uncoordinated movements (Pometlova et al., 2009).
Practitioners need to consider certain factors in their assessments of foster care placement because the arrangement poses significant threats in terms of emotional and psychological damage to children when separated with their families.
Considerations regarding the safety and health of a child are crucial because brain growth is most active in children and existing cases of physical and mental health may aggravate with foster placement (Suchman et al., 2006).
In this regard, practitioners must ensure that placing children under foster care do not pose an adverse effect on their experience and healing process. Placing a child under foster care arouses the need for analyses of the implications of the occurrence of abuse and neglect in a foster home, which might hamper early brain development.
Another important consideration is that although the purpose of foster care is to protect children from any form of abuse or neglect, creating and maintain a child’s attachment to caregivers is essential. Promoting the attachment between a child and caregivers supports an aspect of belonging and cushions the child from the challenges of coping with an alien environment.
In this regard, the necessity to remove a child from home should be such that placing the child in a new environment offers protection from imminent risk of harm while safeguarding feelings of safety and care.
Another consideration pertains to the ability of a child in foster care to deal with psychological stress due to the brain’s tendency to shift to an acute stress response mode. Placing an infant in foster care is likely to cause poor feeding and aggravate the failure to thrive, which may lead to weak recovery for children with physical and mental health problems.
The psychological health of a child largely depends on the existence of a relationship with an adult who can nurture, protect, and help the child to develop trust and a sense of security. The concept of developing an understanding of attachment in a child is crucial to the development and sustenance of bonds with other people during socialization (Ashford et al., 2010).
Children with significant levels of attachment to their caregivers develop secure and productive relationships because they have developed excellent emotional security and conscience. A child perceives caregivers as a parent due to the existence of a respectful and long-lasting relationship, which ensures the psychological health of the child and the development of positive attributes in terms of self-esteem.
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The development of brain structures that control aspects such as a child’s personality traits and ability to learn and adjust to stress and emotional situations largely depends on the influence of factors in a child’s environment on nerve connections and neurotransmitters in the brain.
In this regard, placing a child in an environment that disrupts emotional and cognitive development poses threats of impaired brain development to the child. The situation in which a child grows should enhance a sense of belonging and permanence by encouraging a continuous interaction and building of a relationship between the child and attachment figures.
In this regard, long periods associated with the attainment of permanent placement in foster care programs may interfere with a significant phase during which a child develops a sense of the relationship between physical, emotional, social and environmental factors.
Furthermore, an environment that lacks appropriate mechanisms for stimulating cognitive, language, motor, and behavioral skills cannot support proper child growth and development.
Practitioners should consider the risks associated with a lack of permanence in foster care, which creates a feeling of neglect among children and minimizes their chances of forming productive attachments. Subjecting a child to interrupted periods of stay at home and in foster care eliminates the experience of day-to-day attention that caregivers give children in the physical, emotional, and social sense.
The lack of long-term interaction between a child and an adult who provides attention, comfort and nourishment denies the child an experience of acceptability and being of value while promoting adverse effects of neglect (Anderson, 1998). Negligence curtails the development of language and vocabulary skills, which limits proper communication in children.
Placing children in foster care poses threats to their growth and development because of the interruptions on various aspects of the continuity of caregivers. Unlike adults who deal with matters of impermanence by developing a mechanism for self-reliance and projecting constancy in the long term, children have a limited scope for establishing their sense of self and focus on contextualizing time in the present.
In this regard, children have a limited ability to cope with impermanence and moving them between homes adversely affects their well-being.
Practitioners need to evaluate the risk of children before deciding on foster placement by analyzing various aspects of family functioning relating to the support of healthy child development to highlight instances of insufficient care and neglect. In this regard, pediatric practitioners can implement programs that minimize the improper care of children without necessitating the adoption of foster placement.
Anderson, V. (1998), Assessing Executive Functions In Children: Biological, Psychological, And Developmental Considerations, Neuropsychological Rehabilitation, 8(3), 319-349.
Ashford, J. B., LeCroy, C. W., & Lortie, K. L. (2010), Human behavior in the social environment: a multidimensional perspective (4th ed.), Belmont, CA: Brooks/Cole/Thomson Learning.
Buckner, J., Heimberg, R., Ecker, A., & Vinci, C. (2013), A biopsychosocial model of social anxiety and substance use, Depress Anxiety, 30(3), 276-84.
Melo, P., Rodrigues, L. G., Silva, M. C., & Tavares, M. A. (2006), Effects Of Prenatal Exposure To Methamphetamine On The Development Of The Rat Retina, Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1074(1), 590-603.
Pometlova, M., Hruba, L., Slamberova, R., & Rokyta, R. (2009), Cross-fostering Effect On Postnatal Development Of Rat Pups Exposed To Methamphetamine During Gestation And Preweaning Periods, International Journal of Developmental Neuroscience, 27(2), 149-155.
Suchman, N. E., McMahon, T. J., Zhang, H., Mayes, L. C., & Luthar, S. (2006), Substance-abusing Mothers And Disruptions In Child Custody: An Attachment Perspective. Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, 30(3), 197-204.