As our health-care system is debated in Congress and we continue to face down pro-choice challenges in the bill, I want to take the time to remind all of us of another vulnerable segment of our population.
This is one area in which we should be in full agreement, but still one we too often overlook: the thousands of children in need of adoption by loving families, who are instead consigned to a struggling foster-care system.
These are children who have been through so much already, who have lost their parents to tragedy, to the streets, or who have been pulled through the trauma of abuse or abandonment by the very person who should love them the most. Through no possible fault of their own, these young ones have seen the hardest side of humanity, and they desperately need a steady and loving hand to guide them.
As much as we may bicker over the politics of life and the role of government in our social services, on a fundamental level, the hardship of these children deserves nothing less than our compassion, support, and, perhaps, the very opening of our homes. We must understand this, not as a peripheral issue, but as a true crisis of child welfare, and a battleground for our future.
In this country, there are 129,000 children waiting to be adopted. Most of those are already legally severed from their birth parents and could, therefore, be adopted into new families with no delays. But last year alone, more than 28,000 children were left without families.
This does not need to be the case. Improvements to the adoption system in our country have made the process smoother, faster, and less expensive than it once was. Children in foster homes can be adopted without legal complications. Those who choose to adopt an infant can be paired with their child from before birth and even build a relationship with the birth mother.
Over and over again, in personal stories and in comprehensive studies, we are shown the overwhelming benefits of adoption. Children left in foster care not only struggle with being bounced from place to place in shifting relationships, but also face a terrible struggle when they leave the system and are left with no family support, no adequate resources, and a lack of practical preparation.
Conversely, children who are adopted -- either as infants or later in life -- have proven that strong, successful families do not require ties of blood, and children can rebound from early trauma and experience deep healing and love.
Many of you know that I myself was adopted as an infant. I can think of no greater blessing than the family I was brought into, of the chance for a new life from the start. Every child is a gift from God, and every child deserves a loving family. As individuals and as a nation, we must make that understanding a priority moving forward.
I invite you to visit http://www.arrow.org/, the home of Arrow Child & Family Ministries, an organization I have been proud to partner with for many years now. There, you can learn more about the pressing issues of child welfare in this country, the policies and practices for which we advocate, and the steps your family can take on behalf of these children, perhaps even making one of them your own.
Together, we can protect children and benefit families for generations to come.
Mike Reagan, the elder son of the late President Ronald Reagan, is chairman and president of The Reagan Legacy Foundation. Mike's column is distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons, Inc., newspaper syndicate. E-mail comments to Reagan@caglecartoons.com.