Alabama recently passed a law granting some of the strongest protections in the country to pre-born children and their mothers. The new law could save as many as 8,000 children a year. Because each abortion leaves “one dead and one wounded,” the law will also save thousands of mothers the regret and damaging physical consequences abortions often bring.
The new law was introduced into the Alabama legislature by Rep. Terri Scott, one of Alabama’s rising political stars. At least six other female legislators voted for the bill, and it was signed into law by one of the nation’s few female governors, Kay Ivey. That Alabama would lead the way in providing protections for women is no surprise to students of history. Alabama gave us the nation’s third (and at the time only) female governors when Earleen Wallace took office in 1967.
Alabama is not merely a leader in protecting children before they are born. The state also recently set a record for the number of children it placed in foster care.
Back in November, Gov. Ivey announced that a record number of children from Alabama’s foster care system found permanent homes during the 2018 fiscal year.
According to the Alabama News Group, “There were 710 foster children adopted during the year that ended Sept. 30, up from 509 in fiscal year 2017 and 502 in 2016. The previous record was 676 foster children adopted in fiscal year 2009, according to the Alabama Department of Human Resources (DHR), which oversees the foster care system.”
“It sends a strong, wonderful message to all the foster care children in our state,” Ivey said at a news conference at the Capitol.
DHR Commissioner Nancy Buckner said Alabama had about 6,375 children in foster care. Family re-unification is the primary goal of Alabama’s foster care system, so about 70 percent of foster children return to their biological families.
“But those that don’t, they need their own loving caring, permanent family and that’s what it’s all about,” Buckner said.
Buckner said that means there were only about 250 children in the system in need of adoption, children whose parents have lost their parental rights. According to the Alabama News Group, “The number of children in that situation has been fairly stable — 234 at the end of fiscal 2016 and 236 at the end of 2015.”
Buckner said the increase in adoptions in 2018 is the result of a joint effort that involves juvenile courts, probate judges, DHR and other partners, including churches and Christian adoption agencies.
“We recognize that children need permanency,” Buckner said. “We all need family. We need family connection. And we’ve all gotten together. We’re doing some partnership things together. So, we’re all on the same page and we’re trying to push permanency through.”
There were 6,279 children in foster care in Alabama at the end of the 2017 fiscal year and 5,575 in the system at the end of 2015.
Christian groups are often at the forefront of foster care and adoption efforts. More than a decade ago, in 2008, Colorado had about 8,000 children in foster care and about 800 eligible for adoption. Christian groups in the state, led by Colorado Springs-based Focus on the Family, began a “Wait No More” campaign that by 2010 moved 500 of those 800 children into permanent homes.
Jim Daly, the president of Focus on the Family, was a foster kid himself when he was a child, and that experience provided him the motivation to champion this effort. He believes churches can solve this problem, and he is encouraged by the progress being made in places like Alabama and Colorado. “If my Bible math is right,” he said, “God reminds us 47 times to take care of widows and orphans. This country has something like 300,000 churches and 130,000 orphans. The math is pretty simple.”
[Editor’s Note: This article is the second in a series of articles on the church’s response to foster care in this country. To read the first article, about how individual churches have responded to the foster care and adoption needs of their communities, click here.]
Warren Cole Smith is the Vice-President of Mission Advancement for the Colson Center for Christian Worldview.