Some thoughts regarding the Editorial: Protecting children, as well as the unborn.
Because of the nature of our ministry, which includes foster care and adoption, as well as services specifically aimed at preventing child abuse and offering women alternatives to abortion, I received several messages this week alerting me to a recent editorial published in the Post-Dispatch. I have included a link to the editorial at the end of my mission moment, in case you care to read it yourself. I don’t get furious often, but I was certainly furious after reading that editorial. If I could speak directly to editorial Board of the Post, I would use a phrase my grandmother occasionally used, “Shame on you!”
After reading the first couple of paragraphs, I had the mistaken impression that the editorial was making a case against abortion and for a deeper investment in foster care and adoption resources. “Amen” I thought. After all, the first paragraph accurately asserts that “babies themselves are not to blame” when their parents are unable to care for them and that “increased reliance on abortion is absolutely not the answer” for ensuring the “future well-being” of such children. However, by paragraph three, it was clear I’d been fooled. Instead, the major thrust of the editorial is that the institution of abortion must be protected as a means to avoid placing children in foster care.
The argument begins with the assertion that “children born to parents who aren’t ready to be parents often end up in foster care, which all involved hope is a step toward a permanent adoptive home.” At least in Missouri and most certainly at Good Shepherd, both these assertions are false, which tells me the author(s) knows very little about foster care. The vast majority of all children, including those born to “unready” parents never enter foster care. More importantly, the first goal of foster care is not adoption—it is the healing and reuniting of families. Adoption and guardianship are certainly possibilities when reunification is not possible, but they are definitely not the primary goals of foster care. Nationwide, when children leave foster care, most are reunited with their families.
The editorial then goes on to make the repugnant case that restricting abortion would mean more children in an already overburdened foster care system—in other words, children would be better off dead than in foster care, and we as citizens would be better off too. If abortions were to be less available, would some percentage of those children end up in foster care? Most certainly, just as some percentage of all children end up in foster care. By and large, however, it is a very small percentage and to suggest that death would be a better option isn’t merely despicable, it’s a denigration of the inherent dignity and infinite worth of every child in foster care—children who are every bit as miraculous and full of potential as children who haven’t faced such struggles. It’s also a cruel slap in the face to all the hard working men and women who have dedicated their lives and careers to working with foster youth, and it ignores entirely the thousands of loving families wanting desperately to adopt a baby.
To be clear, our foster care system is not overburdened because there are too many children in it. It is overburdened because it is poorly funded and supported. Children enter the foster care system because of abuse and neglect. Abortion doesn’t prevent child abuse; it IS child abuse. Killing unborn children does not solve the problems that put children at greater risk of abuse and neglect (like poverty, mental illness, unstable housing, lack of parental education and support, teen pregnancy, relationship violence, unremitting stress, and a host of others). Rather, it serves to ignore or hide them (along with our failure to address them as a society). If we want to reduce the number of children in foster care, we must work tirelessly to prevent abuse and neglect and to eliminate the factors that make them more likely (something Good Shepherd and many other agencies do every day).
The editorial ends with the assertion that “the future for children who spend time in foster care is bleak.” Sadly, there is a kernel of truth here. If we compare the group of all U.S. children who have not been in foster care with the group of all U.S. children who have, the latter group has a statistically higher risk for a host of negative outcomes. This is especially true for youth who “age out” of foster care (i.e., those whose families are not reunited and who are not linked with a permanent, loving home before reaching legal adulthood and independence). Yes, sometimes the foster care system fails miserably. However, the clear majority of children who leave foster care do not experience such problems, despite their histories of trauma. The clear majority of these courageous, resilient young men and women become happy, successful adults. That’s one of the unfortunate drawbacks of group statistics regarding foster care; they tell us nothing about individual foster youth. Some, indeed, will struggle mightily. Others, however, will become leaders, professionals, Olympic gold medalists, artists, doctors, top-notch parents, teachers, scholars, activists, and yes…foster parents. The problem with the whole cruel argument put forth in this illogical and mean-spirited editorial is that there is no earthly way to know which unborn child, planned or unplanned, will end up in foster care—or what the result will be if he/she does. Moreover, to argue that the solution to any of this should be to kill unborn children is simply cowardly and despicably wrong.
For the record, I have worked with foster kids for nearly 30 years. I have three nephews and a niece who were adopted from foster care. One of the nephews is also my Godson. I wonder what my Godson would say if I asked him if he wished his mother had aborted him instead…so as not to burden taxpayers and our foster care system, as well as to avoid the trauma he’s experienced. He is a miracle, and God’s own fingerprints are all over him. He is a joy, and my life is richer for having him in it—and if you ask me, the world is a better place. So yes, shame on you Post-Dispatch. Shame on you.
*It’s important to know also that the photo included with this article depicts an employee of the Foster and Adoptive Care Coalition (FACC). The photo was part of a completely separate article published over the summer. It’s re-use in connection with the editorial is both unfortunate and misleading, given that the employee and the FACC had nothing to do with the editorial (and did not give separate permission for its use).