Adoption and Foster Care
by Fr. Jim Hewes
There are several areas of concern when looking at foster care: the children, the biological parents, the potential foster care, guardianship, custodial relationship with a relative, the adoptive parents, the agencies involved, the court system, and states’ oversight.
According to a report on foster care by the American Enterprise Institute, each year, over half a million US children experience foster care, with over 100,000 children waiting for adoption. The majority of these children are designated for reunification with their biological parent or parents, because foster care is meant to be a temporary arrangement when children cannot remain safely in their parent or parents’ care, due to abuse, neglect, parental incapacity, abandonment, or other unsafe circumstances.
The most important aspect of foster care is the children involved in the foster care system. There is a real need for more caring foster or adoptive parents, especially for children with special needs, multiple siblings whose separation should be avoided, or older children. Improved care for these children would help shorten the average stay in foster homes, whether children seek permanent adoption or parental reunification.
Many if not most children in foster care have experienced some form of trauma, even PTSD, because of mental illness, drug addiction or some other problems of their parents. Babies placed in the foster care system may be suffering from Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) or a rarer form of Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD).
In addition, there needs to be a full and completely transparent report (physical, mental, emotional, social, etc.) of the situation each child is coming from, in terms of their parents’ household. There are times where there is too little background or history of the child’s previous living situation, which means that future foster parents will not be equipped to deal with children who come out of traumatic situations. These children are placed in an unknown and strange place after coming out of an already dysfunctional environment.
Many children coming out of such toxic environments have found ways to cope and survive, which can often mean that they at times can be manipulative in getting what they want. After a while they can learn how to “play” the system in order to gain sympathy, or to be moved to another family, sometimes by threatening the foster family.
Thus, there is often a need to place such special needs children in what are called “therapeutic homes.” These foster parents are given extensive and comprehensive training to be able to parent children with challenging backgrounds, especially older children who have been in dysfunctional families or in the foster system for a longer period of time. Otherwise, the lack of necessary training will leave foster parents ill-equipped to adequately parent the children. Foster parents may then feel overwhelmed at dealing with very difficult situations, or they may be left almost on their own.
When the term “foster care” is mentioned, people often assume that foster parents are individuals looking for money. There is no doubt this happens, which shows the need to have more thorough screening, yet there are numerous examples of very generous couples and individuals who are loving foster parents.
Child Protective Services (CPS) caseworkers can have a real overload in the number of cases they manage, which doesn’t allow the time for more frequent or longer visits to the foster homes and hurts the needed quality of care. Also, their backs are against the wall when there are no beds available to place the foster children.
State legislators also play a role in passing legislation that will either enhance the entire foster care system or fail to do so.
About 18,000 babies in the US are voluntarily placed for domestic infant adoption yearly, and each one of them is adopted. An estimated 2 million couples in the US await an infant child to adopt, but only 4% of women in the US with unplanned pregnancies place their children for adoption. In addition, every year approximately one million single women become unexpectedly pregnant. Sadly, less than two percent choose the loving option of adoption, while two million couples eagerly wait to adopt children.
There are up to 36 couples waiting for every one baby placed for adoption. In the USA, there are approximately two million infertile couples waiting to adopt, often regardless of the child’s medical problems such as Down Syndrome, Spina Bifida, HIV infection or terminal illness. When it comes to the option of adoption, there are a variety of choices; birthmothers and fathers can choose from a confidential adoption to one that is open or any level in between. Often the benefits of open adoption can even outweigh the challenges of pregnancy, birth, and emotional transitions.
Overall, infants are probably the smallest age group in the foster care system, because babies are often either reunified rather quickly with their biological family, or adopted.
The problem in adoption is not newborn infants, but sometimes older children or special needs children who come into the adoption system long after their birth; in fact, a significant percentage of children adopted privately were placed when they are newborns or less than a year old. The vast majority of children of any age in the foster care system were wanted at birth, but their parents became unwilling or unable to properly care for them at some point due to problems such as addiction, mental health issues, incarceration, etc.
Why This Matters
Why write all this? Foster care at its best strives for a solid reunification with the child’s biological parent or parents. If this is not possible for whatever reason, then foster care at its best will place these children in a truly caring, safe, structured and consistent environment, which will allow the child to feel wanted, valued, precious, irreplaceable and deeply loved. Abortion by its very nature conveys that this child is unwanted, devalued, unloved, a disposable commodity, thrown away in the trash.
People who support abortion claim that the child would be better off aborted than placed in foster care. But abortion doesn’t solve any one of the defects named above, nor does it offer any solutions to help improve the flaws and problems of the foster care system. In fact, it is appalling to drag foster care children into the abortion issue by implying that these innocent, precious children would have been better off dead.
The interesting thing is that the “unwanted” children the abortion industry wants to kill (soon-to-be newborns) are actually the easiest to place for adoption. How does it make sense, or help, to kill pre-born children (that are not wanted by their own mothers) because of the state of a separate group of older children (that still long to be adopted)? Ultimately, foster care and adoption are about giving life, not death, to children, their mothers, and their foster and adoptive families, to not only thrive in the present, but in future generations as well.
Every system, institution and organization is in need of constant reform, and the foster care system is no exception. The solution in the foster care system means finding more qualified foster parents, better training for foster parents, an improved screening process, a more effective caseload for child protective services workers, a better treatment of those turning 18, seeing all forms of adoption in a much more positive light, and many more possible improvements. This approach should be an area of common ground, where people on both sides of the abortion issue can agree and work together, including having more adults become foster parents whatever their position on abortion.
Abortion, on the other hand, never has been nor ever will be a path to exploring and finding these life-giving solutions to enhance the needed reform in the foster care system.
For more of our posts on child welfare, see:
Children in Cages (compilation of statements on separation of US immigrant parents and children)
For more posts from Jim Hewes, see: