How should I raise a crack baby?

Readers Question Readers Question: (Name changed for privacy)
Stanton Peele Response by: Dr. Stanton Peele
Posted on November 1st, 2010 - Last updated: October 11th, 2019
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Hi Stanton,

We are raising a “former” crack baby adopted by us at the age of 2.

I have seen articles relating to behavioral problems being a product of poverty, not cocaine and been very frustrated.

Dr. Ira Chasnoff’s research seems to more validate our personal experience.

Our daughter is 13 and exhibits a whole host of symptoms as well as some relating to attachment disorder.

Any thoughts from you?


Dear Lorraine:

Have you read my FAQ on crack babies?

But let me ask you this; if you believe the crack itself created these circumstances, what would you do about it?

In other words, how does such an analysis change whatever your policies are towards your child? Is it a boy or a girl? Is there any racial issue?

The child needs to learn to focus, to relax, to become engaged — as do all children. How are you pursuing these tasks?


Further Reading


Thanks for your quick attention to my letter.

We have disciplined our girl (biracial) consistently for years and been consistent and creative in our consequences … her anger is triggered easily at a small parental request and her anger escalates when addressed.

We have her in therapy at an attachment disorder clinic. My concern is that she doesn’t feel contrite at her misbehaviors (stealing, lying, disrespect, manipulation etc.) but gets angry when caught.

I am trying to decide how much my three other children should be exposed to…they deserve a peaceful home.

We are looking into working respite also to give the family a break and allow her to be a part of a home that doesn’t include her in their family activities; she is supposed to learn to appreciate the family she has.

Though she is biracial, she is biologically my cousin’s child and that side of the family is biracial so it isn’t viewed as a highly unusual circumstance to be a different color in our family.

The therapist says that she is directing her anger toward me that instead of her birth mother.

Take care,

Dear Lorraine:

Your situation falls into a larger category — adoptions of children (sometimes domestic sometimes international) where the child seems to come with some fundamental difficulty, whatever its source.

Well-meaning parents like you face grueling choices — which you expressed well.

You signed on to be a parent, but it sometimes overwhelms you and produces dangers for others in the home.

It seems like you are more aware of the resources available than I could be — but this “working respite” concept sounds like something useful — a way to maintain contact, but with some assistance, and perhaps residential separation.

I also think that sometimes the child’s bitterness, or feeling of separation and difference, can dissipate with age and some awareness of alternatives — and that a happy resolution can occur down the road.

It is sad when people try to do something exceptionally generous, then find themselves unable to complete what they started in the way they intended.

But you can also view your current choices as part of a larger effort to think through parenthood, and of parenthood as a long, imperfect series of choices towards the best outcome you can obtain.


Stanton Peele

Dr. Stanton Peele, recognized as one of the world's leading addiction experts, developed the Life Process Program after decades of research, writing, and treatment about and for people with addictions. Dr. Peele is the author of 14 books. His work has been published in leading professional journals and popular publications around the globe.


  • Myrtle says:

    I am raising a “crack baby”. She is 15 mo old and I’m her grandmother. I truly cherish her and have empathy for her as I was was aboned by my biological mother. That never left me even into my teens. I really would like to give my granddaughter the best start but I’m not sure exactly what the do’s and don’ts are. Please help!

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