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Family Fosters and Adopts Children Born to Opioid-Addicted Mothers

— January 31, 2019

Babies are being born to opioid-addicted mothers at alarming rates. One Massachusetts family is doing their part to help by fostering these children, and even adopting a few. They hope to inspire more families to do the same.

One family in Medway, Massachusetts, is doing its part to stop the opioids addiction epidemic.  The family has fostered nearly twenty children born to mothers addicted to opioids and have adopted six of the children they fostered.

Recent studies have shown that postpartum opioid addiction is becoming a problem for new mothers who are being prescribed addictive drugs to manage pain after labor.  One such study was provided by researchers from Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee.

“This study is one of the first to indicate that regardless of the delivery type, postpartum initiation of opioid use—a modifiable practice—is associated with persistent opioid use,” study senior author Dr. Carlos Grijalva said.  “If our estimates were projected to the number of women who give birth annually in the United States, we calculated that every year there would be around 21,000 women becoming chronic opioid users that would be attributable to opioid use in the postpartum period.”

Family Fosters and Adopts Children Born to Opioid-Addicted Mothers
Photo by S A R A H ✗ S H A R P on Unsplash

With 86 percent of women in the United States having at least one delivery and almost a third having a C-section, the potential impact of postpartum opioid prescribing is “huge,” said lead author Dr. Sarah Osmundson, adding, “Policies designed to standardize and improve opioid prescribing have the potential to influence exposures for a large proportion of our population.”

There is also a significant number of parents hooked on opioids during pregnancy.  According to a federal study, the number of women who were addicted to opioids when they delivered quadrupled between 1999 and 2014.  And, because there are so many mothers who are addicted before pregnancy or becoming addicted after delivery, there is an ongoing need to provide a stable home to newborns.

Tami and Shelly Sepelveda decided to foster opioid addicted children after witnessing firsthand infants in NICU struggling to survive.

“It’s total chaos,” said Tami Sepelveda.  “There’s so many babies.  There’s so many babies born on drugs.”

They have opened their homes permanently to several of the children.  Shaelin is one of them.

“I’m ten,” said Shaelin Sepelveda.  The fifth grader knew early on how fortunate she was, and today, there would be no way of telling she had a fragile start.  She is thankful to have been adopted and for the foster care system, in general. “It gives kids a home (cover) and when you make them come into your life, it makes you feel good because you’re doing right for the world,” she said.

Tami said Shaelin “was probably our most exposed baby.  She was on morphine for thirty days, trying to get off.  She would shake and excessively suck on a binky and cry.”

She added that giving children a happy and healthy home by breaking the cycle of growing up with drug-addicted parents will eventually help to eliminate the crisis altogether.  “You always hear people say you can’t help them all, but we did help these six, you know?  So, it feels really good to help these kids and see their progress.”

The couple hopes to inspire other families to look into fostering and adopting infants exposed to opioid addiction.


Medway family fosters children born to mothers addicted to opioids

Study Finds New Mothers are At Risk for Opioid Addiction

Postpartum opioid Rx may lead to persistent use: study

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