Families adopting internationally have usually heard of fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) as a risk for their children. Few realize however, the spectrum of problems that occur after prenatal alcohol exposure, the lifelong disabilities these children experience, and the difficulty establishing this diagnosis in the absence of reliable maternal history.
Fetal alcohol syndrome has been identified among internationally adopted children from virtually every sending country. However, FAS is much more frequent in children from Russia, Ukraine, and other countries of the former Soviet Union. Adoptees from other Eastern European countries such as Romania have an intermediate incidence of FAS. FAS is uncommon in children from Korea, Guatemala and China. The incidence of FAS in international adoptees parallels the incidence of alcoholism in each sending country. The World Health Organization's Global Alcohol Database provides comparable country-specific statistics.