COLUMBIA − The number of children in the foster care system could increase after Roe v. Wade was overturned Friday. A decision like this means that while abortion may no longer be an option for many, other options like adoption may gain popularity. 

According to a report from the Missouri Department of Social Services, in June 2021, there were 4,104 reports of child abuse and 5,929 reports of abused or neglected children who reached out to its child abuse/neglect hotline. 

Elizabeth Ehlen is the executive director of A Gift of Hope, a private domestic adoption agency that specializes in counseling, case management, referrals and more for adoptive parents.

She said A Gift of Hope does 10 to 15 adoptions a year and that in order for parents to adopt, they must complete a home study that includes background checks, physicals, references, interviews, a home inspection and more. 

“Within minutes of the Dobbs decision and subsequent MO trigger law being announced, I had families calling and asking about adopting in Missouri,” Ehlen said. “Many were from out of state.”

She said even before the decision was announced, there was already a high demand for parents wanting to adopt children. 

“There are significantly more waiting adoptive parents than children needing to be adopted,” Ehlen said.

Nationally, Ehlen said there are generally over 100 waiting families for every child placed.

“There will always be families waiting to adopt babies, and I don't think that will change,” Ehlen said. "People want to help babies.” 

A Gift of Hope specializes in private domestic adoption, meaning that the child is not taken away voluntarily. Instead, it is the mother’s choice whether or not she wants to give her child up for adoption. 

Dr. Elizabeth Page is the director of Adoption Solutions, Inc., a licensed child placing agency, and has serviced mid-Missouri birth mothers and families since 2001. She is the mother of five internationally-adopted children and is currently based in Jefferson City.

“I often found that adoption was like a last choice,” Page said.

She said a lot of mothers feel like they only have two options.

“It seemed for many years, either the mother chose to parent or, you know, chose to have the pregnancy terminated,” Page said. 

She said after hearing about the Roe v. Wade decision, she had mixed feelings.

“I feel heartbroken,” Page said. “I would hope that more OB, more medical professionals, social worker and hospital settings, that adoption also, you know, be included as an alternative.” 

Page said private adoption could offer the autonomy that expecting mothers may be seeking. 

“With a private adoption plant, they're in 100% control,” Page said. “They can go ahead and deliver that child, and 48 hours after delivery, they can choose to keep the child, and there's nothing that legally binds them up until the time they sign that consent.”

Page said this same dynamic between the birth mother and adoption agency is not guaranteed when it comes to the state-run foster care system, but she says regardless of how a mother chooses to give her child up for adoption, the decision is never easy.

“It's probably one of the most unselfish, courageous decisions,” Page said. 

Neither Page nor Ehlen said they can anticipate whether or not more kids will be in need of adoptive families, but they both agree that there should be plenty of people waiting to offer them a home.

“We currently have a waiting list for prospective adoptive families, so if we see an increase in birth parents, we can always access more adoptive families for their consideration,” Ehlen said. “We will help an expectant parent find the family she thinks is right for her child, that is important to us.”

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