- - Tuesday, February 4, 2020

The pro-life movement has and will always be dedicated to protecting children and their families before and after birth. 

Pro-life groups regularly advocate for laws that inform women of the risks of abortion, how to reverse dangerous, RU-486 toilet bowl abortions, and for common-sense prohibitions to protect women and preborn babies from the violence of abortion.

It’s also pro-life, anti-abortion organizations that support and sustain more than 2,500 not-for-profit pregnancy care clinics across the United States, ensuring every woman in crisis has a place to turn that doesn’t result in violence or the profit of an abortionist.

But now, there’s an opportunity for pro-life groups, adoption and foster care advocates, and other citizens, even those who are confused about the issue of abortion, to unite to ensure safety and speed are priorities in placing children into foster and adoptive families. 

Recently proposed in Virginia is legislation that would begin the process of speeding up the home study process for some adoptions. The home study is an in-depth background check that assesses a person or a couple’s fitness to foster or adopt. In Virginia, it is generally only licensed social workers that can conduct home studies. But those social workers are overworked and have a backlog; according to the state of Virginia, they do not even know how many parents are waiting to be approved but that there is an inadequate amount of available foster homes, especially for hard to place 

While licensed social workers do great work, caring for children by ensuring that they are not neglected and are able to access the services and resources they need, many social workers are overworked. Meanwhile, thousands of retired law enforcement officers, doctors, nurses and teachers have many of the same skills for assessing the safety and quality of parents, but are shut out from the system. Think about that — when someone tries to break into our home or is harassing our family, we trust the police to come to our house, restore order and ensure we are kept safe. But in every state in the country, that same law enforcement officer is not trusted to ask parents about their living situation or assess if they would be a trustworthy foster or adoptive parent. 

Similarly, teachers, who are often on the front lines of recognizing illness, distress and abuse in the homes, are not allowed to conduct home studies, even though they, like police officers, are mandated reporters in the state of Virginia, and thus are required to look for signs of abuse in the home and to report it. 

Sen. Bryce Reeves, a state senator in Virginia, has already led the way in bipartisan foster care reform and has sponsored this new legislation as well with input from our advocates at Students for Life Action. 

Expanding the home study process would not harm children and would not make it more likely for abusive parents to slip through the cracks. The Virginia State Board of Social Services can still set the standards for a home study inspector and ensure that all inspectors are following the same protocol in addition to the unique experiences and training that a former doctor, nurse, teacher or law enforcement officer would bring to the job. 

However, passing this legislation will speed up the home study process, allowing children to be placed with loving foster and adoptive families faster than ever before. 
This is already the standard in seven states, where the state can license any individual, in theory, to conduct home studies. Alabama, a state frequently attacked for the passage of the Human Life Protection Act bill this spring, recently was able to speed up its foster care adoption placement system. According to the Alabaman Department of Human Resources, anyone hired by the government entity can become trained and approved to conduct home studies, and they have a mix of licensed and unlicensed social workers. 

No one piece of legislation will fix all the problems in the foster care or adoption system. But, applying market principles, opening up competition, is a great next step to ensuring that Virginians have plenty of qualified parents who stand ready and wanting to foster and adopt. And this effort is something all of us, regardless of our view on the legality of abortion, should champion. 

• Kristan Hawkins, president of Students for Life of America, is also president of Students for Life Action. Follow her @KristanHawkins or subscribe to her podcast, Explicitly Pro-Life.

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