Roe v Wade has been on all our minds this past week. The media’s coverage of the issue is redundant. They keep addressing the big picture of taking away a woman’s right to choose and taking steps backward into a time when women had no voice. However, the media isn’t addressing matters even more pressing-the potential impact on newborn babies and the foster care system!

Aside from invalidating women’s thoughts and feelings by the reversal of Roe v Wade, let’s talk about the other issue; the babies, children, and kids added to the foster care system. By overturning Roe v Wade, babies, children, and kids will continually be placed in an already broken system. 

As of 2021, there are at least 400,000 kids in the foster care system. That grotesque number is with Roe v Wade intact. It would be advantageous for Congress to focus on correcting a flawed foster care system rather than adding more bodies to that system by supporting the overturning of Roe v Wade.

Does a newborn baby benefit more from being born out of an obligation or a mother’s free choice? The truth of the matter is no one wins when a mother is forced to bring an unwanted life into the world.

Jane’s Foster Care Story

sad foster care girl sitting outside

When I was 9, I was removed from my parent’s care and placed into the foster care system. I didn’t understand at the time what was happening to me. All that was clear to me, the adults around me weren’t my parents and the surroundings weren’t my home. I felt afraid and alone. At least with my parents, I could play with my toys in my room. I remember my mom was abusive physically and verbally to me. My father never did anything to me he just sat there and watched it happen, the most I got out of my dad was him yelling “quit crying I can’t hear the game”. 

In my first foster care home, they didn’t yell at me or hit me so I was happier although they didn’t talk to me instead they talked at me. They talked in short sentences, “make your bed, pick up your room, eat your dinner, and do your homework“. 

I don’t recall ever feeling a sense of belonging instead I felt I didn’t matter. During 4th grade, I moved because my casework shared with me that my foster parents were no longer interested in being a part of the system. I went to a group home that had several kids living in it. My caseworker said it would be temporary and I should easily get into a different home. 

Six months later a new caseworker met with me and informed me she was taking me to a home with new foster care parents. When I met them they were so nice and they had a cute little dog. I thought to myself I might finally be happy. I thought pet people are good people. 

About a month later, I learned the cute little dog was more important than I was. I was playing outside with the dog throwing a ball and I fell and scraped open my knee. All my foster care parents were concerned about was if the dog was okay. Shortly after my caseworker took me back to the group home. I had to wait again for a home.

I was in and out of homes three more times before I reached 18. I experienced neglect, physical abuse, and mental abuse on and off while in foster care. During these years, I felt sad and depressed I felt angry at the world for the hand I was dealt. The only that kept me going was drawing. 

The Bleak Foster Care System

  1. Typically, children enter the foster care system due to abuse and neglect. This is meant to be a temporary solution yet once in the system abuse continues due to improper placement of the child. Research shows that 20% of foster care children will remain in the system for over five years, while others tragically never experience adoption (Miller, 2022).
  2. A study published by the Social Service Review referenced research that confirmed, “Children who experience multiple placement changes are more likely to exhibit attachment difficulties, externalizing behavior problems, and internalizing behavior problems.”
  3.  Children who have been in the U.S. foster care system are at a significantly higher risk of mental and physical health problems — ranging from learning disabilities, developmental delays, and depression to behavioral issues, asthma, and obesity — than children who haven’t been in foster care, according to a University of California, Irvine sociologist.
  4. Foster-care kids have a higher rate of suicide. Most youth who die by suicide have a mental disorder, such as depression, or a substance use disorder. Youth in foster care are more likely to have a mental disorder or substance use disorder than those who were never in foster care.
  5. The New York Times wrote two separate articles on foster care parents charged with sex trafficking and using the foster care system to find their victims. They were charged with sex-trafficking eight young women.
  6. The Shadow System is the system most refuse to acknowledge. A quarter of a million children are taken into formal foster care every year, and by the best estimates, roughly the same number are moved into this shadow system. No federal law governs the shadow system. Kids get put into this system without knowing it and they are not protected by a caseworker.
  7. A Community Relations Coordinator anonymously shared some interesting facts they have learned while in their position. Foster care creates more youth in the system that become homeless and foster youth are currently helping other foster youth while being homeless themselves. 
  8. Reminder in 2021, there were over 390,000 kids in the foster-care system.

The suicidal rates have been constantly rising for teens and young adults for the last several years.  In 2018, the CDC reported suicide was the second leading cause of death among people ages 10-34.

These numbers are alarming and disheartening and Roe v Wade is in place. Many teens and young adults struggle with feeling confident about the future. Anxiety levels will significantly increase when Roe v Wade is overturned and when teens or young adults become pregnant and parenthood is no longer optional.

a girl sitting alone on a couch thinking about roe v wade and the foster care system

Mental health is essential to everyone’s well-being. Life is difficult for any kid even when they have two loving parents raising them. Not only will a reversal of Roe v Wade be harmful to countless newborn children, but it will also cause detrimental physical and mental harm to women across the country.

The month of May is National Foster Care Month and Mental Health Awareness Month. Let’s honor both by praising the kids in the system that have to balance between not having an ideal living situation and keeping their negative thoughts and feelings at bay.