Wednesday, Jan 17, 2018
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SATURDAY ESSAY

D.C. not supporting at-risk pregnant women

In Washington, lawmakers are patting themselves on the back, pointing to a last-minute save of the adoption tax credit, as if it somehow demonstrates that legislators are supporting families.

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Newly adopted Margot Joyner poses for a family portrait with her parents Nikki Joyner, right, and John Joyner during a public adoption ceremony at Lucas County Children Services in November.

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The adoption credit was originally a bipartisan idea to encourage families to adopt children out of the foster care system. The reality is, it has not solved the problem of children stuck in the foster care system.

In Ohio, we have 453 kids and sibling groups waiting to be adopted. Nationwide, there are 100,000 kids waiting. And yet we often hear the somewhat questionable statistic that for every baby put up for adoption, there are 36 couples waiting.

Clearly there’s a disconnect. Parents will wait years for a newborn baby to bring home, while tens of thousands of children wait in foster care.

It’s a problem. And while the credit does help those families who pursue adoption out of the foster system, it’s not doing nearly enough, and the resources supporting families adopting outside the traditional closed-adoption-of-an-infant world are insufficient. There are intense social and emotional supports needed to help families who adopt from foster care succeed, and the resources aren’t enough.

As the founder of an adoption agency here in Ohio, I see it as my responsibility to ensure that the pregnant people we serve understand all of their options — adoption, abortion, and parenting — and make the choice that is right for them. The choice that gives them peace in their hearts.

In the same tax-plan revision attacking the tax credit, our lawmakers not only considered cutting the limited money that would give living, breathing kids a better chance at finding an adoptive home and legislators attempted to give money to unborn children by making them designated beneficiaries. 

We aren’t adopting the children already waiting in our system, yet our lawmakers would hurt these children’s chances of adoption and in the same pen stroke give financial rights to a fetus?

These cuts weren’t about caring for the American people. These cuts were about pushing agendas. The elimination of the adoption credit was another blatant way of showing that our lawmakers care about the unborn child more than the born child, women, and families.

Lawmakers continue to do nothing to build the social support programs that have been systematically gutted and leave pregnant people without options or resources right here in Ohio and across the nation. They do nothing to provide solid parenting foundations, quality affordable child care, and opportunities for upward mobility for pregnant people. 

Lawmakers do nothing to provide the education, understanding, and support the foster care system needs to connect with adoptive families and guide them to success. And they decimate and dismantle women’s access to abortion.

Our lawmakers may have saved the adoption credit, but it was clear long ago they’d abandoned pregnant people.

If we really want to keep more children out of foster care, lawmakers need to increase financial aid and support to low-income people, increase living expenses for people wanting to place their children up for adoption, and stop cutting women’s reproductive rights.

Keep the federal adoption credit as is. It’s a needed tool. But it’s a pittance of the financial, emotional, and social support system our most at-risk pregnant people need. And until that support is in place, we all need to continue to demand our lawmakers provide better for pregnant women.

Molly Rampe Thomas is founder and CEO of Choice Network, an Ohio-based adoption agency.

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