June 29, 2023
At the Children’s League of Massachusetts, we have reflected on the impacts of the Supreme Court’s detrimental decision in Dobbs v. Jackson, overturning Roe v. Wade’s health protections for women, which now has reached its one-year anniversary. We’re gravely concerned about the long-lasting impact this ruling will have on an already over-burdened and under-resourced child welfare system. As a community that includes leaders in the field of adoption services across Massachusetts, we are keeping a spotlight on the complex intersection of abortion, adoption, and foster care. We anticipate a ripple effect throughout the sector as families in a growing number of states are denied the right to choose whether or not they are prepared to parent. We call on policymakers, leaders, advocates, and the public to remain vigilant and responsive to the decision’s impact on the overstressed child welfare sector to proactively manage the potential influx of children in need of foster care or adoption plans.
In the immediate aftermath of this landmark decision, it was erroneously suggested by judicial and political leaders that adoption is a solution to unplanned pregnancy. In reality, only 9% of women denied abortion turn to adoption, and it is rarely the preferred choice.1 Adoption is a complex, life-long journey founded in loss, and never a simple solution. Eliminating choice for women, as the Dobbs decision has, perpetuates cycles of poverty, neglect, and family separation.
Today in Massachusetts alone, there remain over 1,160 children and teens in foster care waiting for adoptive families.2 It’s time we turn our concern towards finding homes for these children, instead of perpetuating a myth that there are an abundance of families waiting in the wings to adopt. This faulty assumption perpetuates the commodification of children steeped in racial and socio-economic injustices.
Further, it is widely documented that banning access to abortion disproportionally impacts woman of color, due to centuries of institutionalized racism, the burden of poverty, and the prevalence of abortion bans in states with the highest populations of black and brown women. This same trend of disproportionality is glaring in the Massachusetts child welfare system, where we see black children being removed from their families at a rate of 2.4 times more than white children and Hispanic/Latinx children at 2.9 times more than their white peers.3
Limiting access to health care in black and brown communities, combined with poverty often being misunderstood as parental neglect, is a surefire formula for increased rates of children of color entering a foster care system that is not prepared to meet their needs. Further contributing to this complex cycle is the fact that young people who’ve experienced foster care are twice as likely as their peers to become pregnant by age 19.4 Additionally, a significant number of those who do become pregnant will undergo a second pregnancy prior to reaching the age of 19.5 The emotional toll, medical risks, and social consequences faced by vulnerable women who are forced to carry pregnancies put undue strains on families and social systems alike.
Instead of further penalizing and stigmatizing those with limited access to resources, we need to turn our focus to supporting the most vulnerable families amongst us, investing in programs that allow families to thrive. If, as a community, we are invested in children who are in need of adoption, let’s shine a light on those who are waiting today in each community across the Commonwealth, most urgently teens, sibling groups, children of color, LGBTQ+ youth and those with disabilities. Let’s collectively get behind current legislative efforts, which address disproportionality in child welfare, provide cash assistance to vulnerable families, and offer more support for young adults who are leaving the foster care system without permanency.
- Understanding Adoption and Pregnancy Decision-making, Pact.
- Why We Exist, MARE.
- Annual Report FY2022, Massachusetts Department of Children and Families.
- Teen Pregnancy Among Young Women In Foster Care: A Primer, Guttmacher Institute.
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