Children Adopted From Russian Orphanages Have High Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Rates

A new review of studies finds high rates of fetal alcohol syndrome in children who are adopted from Russian and Eastern European orphanages, or who are in foster care. These children also are more likely than average to have other physical, mental and behavioral problems related to alcohol exposure in the womb.

The review concludes children exposed to alcohol before birth are nine to 60 times as likely to have alcohol-related problems compared with the general population. These problems may include mental retardation, physical deformities and learning disabilities, Reuters reports.

Researchers, led by Dr. Svetlana Popova from the Center for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto, reviewed 33 studies of children in the care of foster parents or child welfare agencies, and children adopted from orphanages. A total of 6 percent of the children in the studies had fetal alcohol syndrome. Almost 17 percent of the children had fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, which includes any physical, mental or behavioral issues caused by prenatal exposure to alcohol.

Among children in a Russian orphanage for children with special needs, and among those adopted from Eastern Europe by Swedish families, the rate of severe alcohol-related damage ranged from 29 percent to 68 percent. There were no reported cases of fetal alcohol syndrome in a study of Chinese children adopted by American parents.

The results appear in the journal Pediatrics.

Popova told Reuters, “Early screening may lead to early diagnosis, which can lead to early participation in developmental interventions, which can in turn, improve the quality of life for children with a (fetal alcohol spectrum disorder).” She added that early intervention may also help prevent future mental health problems and trouble in school.

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