Part of the Dads Take-Over Series: Post by Trent Friberg
My name is Trent. I have a problem. And I can admit it.
I get annoyed too easily. There. I said it. It is out in the open. I get annoyed by strange noises my kids like to make. I get annoyed when my computer freezes up. I get annoyed by drivers that do various things that I am sure I NEVER do. I get annoyed by endless demands of laundry and dishes. I get annoyed. It happens.
Knowing this about me helps give context to this statement: I get annoyed by Christians. More specifically, I get annoyed by people who identify as Christians and don’t live like Christ. I get annoyed by Christians who are so quick to condemn the “evils of this world” while being slow to celebrate the good and beautiful. I get annoyed by Christians who are grievously inconsistent in their theology and beliefs but seem to not notice or not care. As I said, I get annoyed too easily.
So here it is: It annoys me when people are intensely passionate about their pro-life stance on abortion but don’t mention anything about foster care.
Now, just to be clear (and before you rush down to the comments section) … I am an ordained pastor in a conservative Evangelical Christian denomination. Our church is strongly in the pro-life camp. I tend to agree with this position in most instances, although I respect and appreciate thoughtful discourse on this controversial topic. Thankfully, my position on the pro-life / pro-choice discussion is not what this post is about.
I have heard spirited and passionate discourse about the evils of abortion. I have listened to women and men, pastors, legislators, lobbyists and advocates declare the inherent “right to life” that comes with the combination of sperm and egg in the womb. They conclude that the beating heart of an unborn fetus entitles that organism the right to survive until it can be delivered and experience life outside of the mother’s sustaining womb.
But what comes next? Crazy math. Crazy math is what comes next.
I pulled some estimates from a document that can be found on the National Right to Life website. (Full disclosure: the statistics presented on this sheet are supposed to be unbiased estimates based on numbers given by the Guttmacher Institute, but this organization is strongly against abortion and the statistics reported should be viewed through this lens.)
In the document referenced, they estimate that in the year 2010, for example, there were over 1.1 million abortions performed in the United States. For the sake of this particular discussion, we are going to focus on abortions performed during the year 1999 or later up to the 2015 estimate. We focus on that period of time because children who would have been born in 1998 are reaching the age where they would “age out” of the foster care system. (More info about what aging out means.)
Adding up the abortion estimates between 1999 and 2015, Guttmacher Institute estimates that in the United States, there have been 20,077,000 abortions. Those who agree with a unilateral pro-life view might say something like, “That is over 20 million murders of innocent children in the last eighteen years!” I agree that the number is staggering.
For the sake of discussion again, let’s say that abortions were illegal during that span of time. Often this is the stated agenda of most pro-life groups and advocates. One such website states that the numbers of abortions will not be affected by making abortions illegal. At the same time, this website estimates the number of illegal abortions in America during the 1950s and 60s (prior to Roe v. Wade, i.e. when abortions were illegal in the U.S.) was anywhere from 200,000 to 1,200,000 per year. Such a wide range of estimates makes it difficult to determine a correlation between legality and abortion rates, but it seems fair to estimate the probable rate would be somewhere near the middle of these two. Let’s propose that if abortions were illegal during our time span, half of the women who would have had a legal abortion would choose to not have one.
Suddenly there would be 10,000,000 more children in our country ranging in age from 0 – 17. We also should consider the effect that carrying a child to full term would likely have on a mother or a couple. I believe that there are some who, upon carrying a child to full-term, based on my own experience, might begin to have a change of heart about an unwanted pregnancy. There are also some who might choose to find a family to consider private adoption. Again, we have to make some conjectures in order to continue this conversation, but let’s approximate that another half of these kids would be born to parents who decide that this unwanted pregnancy is a blessing or make arrangements for adoption so the child enters a safe and stable home.
That still would leave 5,000,000 unwanted children. Some would have been surrendered at the hospital. Some would have been raised by bitter parents. Some would have been abused and mistreated. These are the horror stories that currently make the news and wrench my gut. These are the children that the bus drivers and school teachers look at and wonder, “What am I supposed to do for this child?” I ask: What would happen to these 5 million? I believe that many would end up in the foster care system.
Again, I’m using broad and sweeping guesstimates, and by no means am I attempting to make precise predictions. But if anywhere near 5,000,000 more children were added to the already overwhelmed systems of child protective services and foster care, that would be approximately 275,000 more children EVERY YEAR. I wrote in an earlier post that the annual number of children taken into foster care hovered between 250,000 and 265,000 from 2010 – 2014. That would double. Twice as many children. Twice as many social workers needed (or twice as heavy caseloads). Twice as many supervised visits. Twice as many foster homes. Twice.
We are not ready for that.
So I ask: How can we be so passionate and proactive about the inherent rights of the unborn child and be so lethargic about the needs and care of those already born? People do things like this to care for unborn children, and yet children sleep in DSHS offices because there aren’t enough foster homes for them.
Here is my plea: Let our cry to care for children extend beyond the day of their birth. I’m not trying to talk anyone out of being pro-life. I don’t even know where this legal and political debate is headed. What I do know is that there is a great need right NOW, and I would love to see more people involved, at some level, in caring for already-born kids.
If we truly are pro-life, our passion to protect and advocate for children should extend well beyond their time in the womb and into our hearts … and our homes.
Trent a four-year rookie to this thing called foster care. He and his wife, Lynne, were married in 1998 and have four biological children and four foster children as well. He has served on staff as a pastor since 2000 at a church that runs about 200 – 220 every week in Washington State. He loves following Mariner baseball, watching movies (romantic comedies with his wife, Marvel and Star Wars with his boys), and spending one-on-one time with any of the kids