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Mom of 12 opens up about adopting kids with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder

Alicia and Josh Dougherty began fostering children after experiencing 11 miscarriages.
Meet the "Dougherty Dozen."
Meet the "Dougherty Dozen."Courtesy of Alicia Dougherty

Alicia Dougherty went viral on TikTok after posting a time-lapse video of her next level meal-prepping skills for her family of 10 children.

But there’s so much more to Alicia and her family, or the “Dougherty Dozen” as they’re known on social media. Since they first went viral, they've added two more foster children!

All six of the Doughertys' adopted children have Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD), a group of conditions that occur when alcohol passes from a mother to her baby through the umbilical cord. FASD can result in a mix of physical, behavior and educational issues.

“These kids tend to have very poor executive functioning skills,” Alicia, who lives in Pittsford, New York, with her husband, Josh, told TODAY Parents. “Ours have explosive rage, anger issues, and trouble with transitioning. There are many, many meltdowns.”

Alicia noted that their 16-year-old son, Alexander, is not a typical teenager, which is common for people affected by FASD. 

“Socially and emotionally they’re not the same age as they are chronologically, so they don’t understand the social cues of their peers.”

Alicia, 41, and Josh, 43, began fostering in 2010, after experiencing infertility and 11 miscarriages. The first child who came to live with them was Alexander. She recalled how the little boy flew into a rage and threw a rug down the stairs at her.

“We were like, ‘What did we get ourselves into?’” Alicia said. “But we refused to give up. So we dove headfirst into researching and reading about FASD, and trying to figure out how to best meet his needs and little by little, he began to trust us.” 

The couple soon became the go-to foster home for kids with FASD. 

“People quickly realized that tantrums didn’t faze us,” Alicia said. "So the phone kept ringing."

Alicia and Josh, a teacher, went on to adopt Alex, James, 15, Patrick, 13, Bree, 11, and twins Jordan and Jason, 7. They also share four biological children: Zoey, 10, Dashel, 8, Bodhi, 5, and Harlee, 3. In case you’re wondering, that equals five loads of laundry per day, and an $1000 weekly grocery bill.

Alicia said James has been diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, “double the score of a war veteran.” But it’s nothing Alicia can’t handle. She credits her patience to growing up with a brother who has bipolar disorder.

“I’m used to being around random crying and big emotions,” she said. “It’s my norm, it doesn’t bother me at all.” 

As for Josh, he’s determined to be the father figure that he never had, Alicia said.

“Josh was raised by a single mom who worked three jobs,” she revealed. “And so Josh loves having this big family that’s always together.”

The family just got bigger. Last week, the Doughertys took in two more kids, ages 12 and 13.

"I think we're done," Alicia said, with a laugh. "I think 12 is my cap."