Baby Julius supposedly never had a chance. Born cocaine-positive 15 years ago to a mother who'd already lost custody of two other children, he began his life shuttling among foster homes, says the Denver Post. In the 1980s, they had a name for infants like him. “Crack baby.” Now in 8th grade, Julius Searight is on the honor roll at Nathan Bishop Middle School in Providence, R.I.
Premature births, low birth weights, and early cognitive delays have been linked to cocaine. But cocaine exposure, rather than a defining force, now appears to be one factor in a potentially noxious mix of chemical, medical, and environmental variables. “What it comes down to,” says Chicago-based researcher Ira Chasnoff, “is the placenta does a better job protecting children than society does.” Boston University researcher Deborah Frank says there’s no such thing as a “crack baby.” Studies have linked no syndrome or disorder specifically to prenatal cocaine exposure. “The way people talked about it, they were waiting for these kids to grow horns and a tail,” says Frank. “They don’t.”