Editorial: With most abortions banned, Ohio must do more for help parentless kids


A recent editorial by the Columbus Dispatch:

With the future of legal abortion here in doubt, Ohio will have to step up efforts to make sure children born to parents who did not want them receive the support and care needed to thrive.

Anything short of that would be an insult to life itself.

There has been increased attention on the possible fates of children that result from unwanted pregnancies and the role the child warfare sector will play since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade and Ohio’s six-week abortion ban — popularly known as the Heartbeat Bill — became law.

Will child welfare be overwhelmed?

Some experts predict the Supreme Court decision and will cause the state’s child welfare safety net to be even more strained due to more unwanted children born and needing to be placed for adoption or into foster care.

— There were 20,605 abortions in Ohio in 2020, according to the Ohio Department of Health.

— There are currently 3,330 children — 279 in Franklin County included — available for adoption in the state, according to the Department of Job and Family Services.

— Roughly 16,000 Ohio children are in foster care on any given day, says the Adoption Exchange Association, a non-profit funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Children’s Bureau. That number has grown by more than 30% in the last decade.

— There are more than 407,000 children in foster care nationwide and more than 117,000 awaiting adoptions.

Abortion rights advocates have vowed to fight on for reproductive freedoms. Ohio’s abortion clinics are suing to restore access, arguing that the state’s constitution goes farther than the U.S. Constitution in protecting health care choices like abortions.

Planned Parenthood locations are still providing abortion up to six weeks where no fetal cardiac tone is found.

Regardless of the outcome of the abortion provider’s lawsuit, indications are that it will be all but impossible to beat back some form of an abortion ban with Ohio’s anti-abortion-controlled General Assembly.

What will Ohio do?

If an abortion ban is to be the law of the land here, it will be even more important that the state double down on efforts to support child warfare services agencies some of which have experienced challenges with foster parent retention and pay.

What will lawmakers do?

What are individual Ohioans going to do?

Will we change our attitudes about kids who need parents?

A change in mindset about children in foster care and those awaiting adoption is long overdue. The deck is stacked against far too many kids.

Sixty-seven percent of Americans believe every child is adoptable, but only a fraction have very seriously considered adoption or fostering a child.

That’s according to the 2022 U.S. Adoption Attitudes Survey conducted by Harris Poll for the Dublin-based Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption.

Most of those who would adopt or foster prefer kids younger than five years old. Most believe older kids must be in foster care because they are bad seeds.

In a discussion with the Dispatch Editorial Board about the Harris Poll survey conducted several weeks before the Supreme Court decision, Dave Thomas Foundation President and CEO Rita Soronen said attitudes about foster children, teenagers in particular, are and have been beyond troubling.

The 2022 survey found that the percent of those who thought children in foster care were juvenile delinquents has risen slightly since 2012.

“This is the story for me, the majority of Americans — 51% of Americans — believe children are in care because they’ve done something wrong, because they’re juvenile delinquents,” she said. “We ascribe a fault to these children when nothing could be further from the truth. This is where the barrier occurs for teenagers — particularly teenage boys — in getting them adopted. For some reason we have this image of too old, too damaged, too dangerous.”

Based in Columbus and created by Wendy’s founder Dave Thomas in 1992, the Dave Thomas Foundation focuses exclusively on foster care adoption.

Wendy’s Wonderful Kids, the foundation’s child-focused recruitment program, has resulted in more than 1,431 foster care adoptions in Ohio since 2012 as part of a partnership with the state.

According to a five-year study conducted by Washington-based Child Trends, the project’s model is three times more effective at serving older youth, sibling groups and those with special needs.

Many of these kids would otherwise be on the so-called “emancipation track” to age out of the foster care system.

Nationwide, 20,000 kids age out of care each year when they turn 18 or, in some states, 21.

It is no wonder.

According to the Harris Poll, nearly 60% of those who would not consider adopting a teen said it would be hard for the child to be integrated into their family.

Another 51% said they wouldn’t adopt teens because teens are already too set in their ways.

Soronen said foster youth pay real consequences for our misinformed thinking.

“We have failed 20,000 children year over year over year,” she told our board. “What we know is children who leave foster care without a family — not because they’re bad kids, but because they don’t have the safety net of family — are at intense risk of negative consequences because they can’t make a mistake, because they can’t stumble at age 18, because they can’t lose a job or have the car break down.”

Soronen said children who age out of foster care have a higher risk of being homeless, undereducated, unemployed and early parents.

“Not that early parenting in itself is a bad thing, but if you don’t have that safety net, a family around, it becomes problematic,” she said. “Not only is it the right thing to do to assure a family for every child, but frankly for communities, for cities, it’s the economically right thing to do because the cost of aging out of care are profound — in the billions of dollars each year for this country.”

It is on lawmakers and the rest of us to make sure that all children born in this state are properly care for and given a shot.

That’s the only way to really be pro-life.

— Columbus Dispatch, July 4