On June 24, the Supreme Court of the United States reversed Roe vs. Wade, a landmark case that provided abortion rights for women across the country. Instead of abortion being a federal right, the court provided the states the opportunity to make their own laws around abortion. For some, this represented a victory against the evil of destroying innocent lives. For some, this represented a set back in history that could lead to other similar reversals. I argued in a previous post that in order for the nation to be able to ethically ban abortions, there were several things that need to be addressed such as sex education and the foster care system. My previous post discussed my concerns about abstinence only education in states that have almost entirely banned abortion as a legal right of women.
A second concern related to abortion bans across the country has to do with the state of the foster care system in the United States. As an adoptive mother and a former foster mother, this is personal. In order to be a licensed foster parent, an individual needs to undergo training that includes an understanding of the legal ramifications of foster care and adoption, trauma sensitivity, abuse recognition and prevention, and other topics specific to each individual case. In my training, we heard stories of conditions that caused certain children to be taken into care – situations of extreme abuse and neglect. We also heard stories of children who experienced similar if not worse conditions in foster placement. As a foster parent, you learn not to be surprised when a child tells you about their past, a sad reality in our world today.
The 2021 Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS) reported that in 2020, 407,493 children were in foster care. Over 200,000 children both entered and exited foster care which means that over 600,000 children were at one time in the system during 2020. Of that number only 57,881 children were adopted with the assistance of a public welfare agency while over 170,000 children were waiting to be adopted. The remaining children were in the system until they could be reunited with their birth family or until a family member could become their legal guardian. Of the children in foster care, 45% were in foster placement with someone outside of their birth family while 54% were waiting to be reunified with family.
It is easy to gloss over these statistics and forget that these numbers represent individual children. In my own experience as a foster mother, I had the privilege of mothering two boys. Both boys were about the same age when they entered my home at different times. The first boy experienced severe neglect in his birth home and was allowed to sit in his room in the dark, playing video games most of the time. Due to his experience in his grandparents’ home, he still struggles with video game addiction and making lasting connections with others. He was adopted at fourteen and is now struggling to live independently. The second boy witnessed first hand extreme violence at the hands of his mother’s live-in boyfriend. Due to his experiences, he regularly threw temper tantrums that would sometimes last for hours. Today he is still in need of a forever home after more than seven years in the system.
These two stories are not necessarily the norm. Some children are able to be reunited with their birth family, and the goal of many foster care parents is to participate in this reunification. Other times, the courts terminate parental rights of the birth family because the conditions of the home are not safe for reunification to be a reality. In both cases of my boys, parental rights had been terminated which meant that the foster care system had determined that their plan was adoption. One boy was looking forward to adoption while the other wanted desperately to be back with his birth family despite the possibility of further abuse and neglect.
So what does this have to do with abortion? In my experience and opinion, everything. I would never suggest that these boys would be better off if their mothers had aborted them. I am so blessed that I have been a part of both of their lives. However, I am concerned that with abortion bans across the nation that the number of children in foster care will rise. Currently, it does not seem as if the states that have banned abortions will begin to provide for the economic, medical, and psychological needs of the mothers who will carry unwanted pregnancies to full term. Despite the fact that people across the United States want to protect the lives of unborn children, it doesn’t seem like many are willing to do anything to help these children once they are born.
I try not to be a pessimist when I look at the state of the foster care system; however, with my personal experience as a licensed foster mother, I know how difficult it is to parent children who have been in abusive situations. It is not for the faint of heart. My first foster placement was successful, meaning that it progressed with my husband and I adopting our son. However, my second foster placement was not successful which means that it did not progress to adoption. Our second placement was removed from our home and placed temporarily with another family because he was attempting to recreate the abusive situation that he was used to with his birth family. This experience broke our hearts. We wanted so desperately to be his forever family, but he was not ready emotionally or psychologically.
In order to live in a nation where abortion is not necessary, we need to seriously consider the ways in which children exit foster care. Sadly, the number of children in foster care has not changed much in recent years. I know that this is due to many factors; however, the number of children that have been adopted in recent years has also remained steady. This suggests that potential families have not made the sacrifice and commitment to become forever families for children in desperate need of belonging. It suggests that people are not willing to take care of children in need even though they are arguing for the protection of unborn babies. I just can’t help but see the double standard.
Not everyone can be foster parents or adoptive parents. Not all families can take on the responsibilities of helping to care for children that have been neglected and abused. However, I believe that there are more couples and families, especially those in the Church, who would be wonderful parents for children who need to be given safety and love. It is our call as people of God to care for those who are in need:
- James 1:27 says, “Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress”
- Psalm 82:3 says, “Give justice to the poor and the orphan; uphold the rights of the oppressed and the destitute”
- Isaiah 1:17 says, “Learn to do good. Seek justice. Help the oppressed. Defend the cause of orphans”
If people in the Church are to applaud the reversal of Roe vs. Wade, then they must also be willing to seek justice, defend the weak, help the oppressed, and care for orphans. At this point in the history of the American Church, I do not believe that we are doing enough. Instead, people tend to argue that women should just put their children up for adoption instead of having an abortion, but many are not willing to adopt or foster a child. People argue that people should just stop having sex, like that is a reasonable solution. Instead of showing love toward those in need, some are showing their lack of concern.
We are called to be pro-love in all that we do. This includes seeing the marginalized, helping the poor, defending the weak, loving mercy. Sadly, a decrease in abortions across the nation will more than likely mean an increase of children in foster care. What are we willing to do to help? What are you willing to sacrifice to stand behind your conviction to love your neighbor?