Utah’s Real Family Values: State Cuts Vital Support for Adopted and Foster Children; Number of Homeless Children Skyrockets

Use quotes to search for exact phrases. Use AND/OR/NOT between keywords or phrases for more precise search results.

Utah’s Real Family Values: State Cuts Vital Support for Adopted and Foster Children; Number of Homeless Children Skyrockets

Jodi Jacobson

Utah is cutting support for special needs children in adoptive and foster families, forcing some families to return those children to the state. Meanwhile, the number of homeless children has skyrocketed. But of course, the far right wants to restrict women's ability to decide whether, when and with whom to have children.  It's all about "life."

In the broader debates about women’s rights to determine whether, when and with whom to have children, members of the far-right anti-choice movement insist that once pregnant, a woman must carry a pregnancy to term and give birth, no matter how untenable the pregnancy for her, her partner, or her family.

And they paint a rosy picture of options like adoption, even of severely disabled children.

Well the realities are very different and one of the most anti-choice states in the union, Utah, now shows it’s real colors by cutting Medicaid assistance to families who have adopted or foster special-needs children.

As of July 1, Medicaid no longer covers “therapeutic supervision” costs for in-patient mental health treatment. At the same time, state budget cuts reduced a supplemental subsidy fund that the Division of Child and Family Services used to help parents with such expenses.

Roe has collapsed in Texas, and that's just the beginning.

Stay up to date with The Fallout, a newsletter from our expert journalists.


Utah, you may remember, passed an anti-choice law earlier this year that is so restrictive it can be used to prosecute women who experience a miscarriage.

The Salt Lake Tribune reports that these cuts have saddled some families who have adopted special-needs foster children with unexpected expenses and difficult choices.  The funding changes affect an estimated 40 to 50 children statewide who receive adoption subsidies. At least 12 children have been returned to state custody so far by adoptive and foster families could no longer afford the expense of their care.

“Now the state is going back to adoptive parents and asking them to make up the difference in cost [for special-needs care],” Jennifer Gardner, president of the Utah Foster/Adoptive Families Association, told the Salt Lake Tribune. “It is just hard when these were the state’s kids to begin with.”

An adoptive mom of three, Natalie, tells this story:

She and her husband adopted two brothers as infants; both were exposed to methamphetamine during their mother’s pregnancy. At the time they adopted the second boy, the couple also adopted an older sibling. 

The couple had a simple motive when they adopted three children from state foster care: They wanted to help.

But Natalie, tells the Tribune, she feels let down — even misled — about the children’s needs and the state’s ability to help her family meet them. The two boys have since been diagnosed with autism. But the biggest challenge has come with the older sibling, whom they returned to state custody recently because of severe — and undisclosed, Natalie says — behavior problems.

Meanwhile, the state has see a whopping 48 percent increase in the number of homeless school-age children since 2008, according to state data released last Wednesday and reported in the Tribune.

Nearly 12,000 children were homeless in January 2010, meaning their families had lost their homes and were typically staying with friends or relatives, officials said at the annual Homeless Summit in downtown Salt Lake City.

Statewide, the numbers of homeless children jumped from 8,016 in 2008 to 10,388 in 2009 and 11,883 in 2010.

These are issues of reproductive justice.  To ensure that every child born is a wanted child requires sustained and meaningful investment to ensure that every person has access to effective and evidence-based sexual and reproductive health education.  It requires sustained investment to ensure universal access to reproductive health services, including those that enable people to avoid unintended pregnancies, and to make meaningful choices when those pregnancies occur.  It means ensuring trusting women, and their partners when relevant, to know whether bringing a child into the world is the best thing for that family and that child.  It means understanding that some people are not equipped and do not have the resources by themselves to fund the intensive care required by many children with profound and special needs. It certainly means that when the state makes a promise to care for children with disabilities or to “celebrate every life” that children not be left homeless, on their own, out of school, without food and clothing.  It means that the state and society have a responsibility to every born child to meet their most basic human needs for medical and social care when parents are unable to do that, and that it is not okay to promise adoptive parents help that later becomes “optional” in the eyes of the state.

In a telling–and chilling–interview with Rose Aguilar, Utah State Representative Carl Wimmer (R) underscores that he feels it is the state’s right to force women to bear children, but it is not the state’s responsiblity to assist in supporting children in need.

RA: You say you care about life, so what programs will you put in place to make sure all of those children have a decent life?

CW: I’m not sure the government needs to be doing that. There are plenty of volunteer organizations that help. We need to work hard to get resources where they need to be. We might need to look at rural areas. We definitely need to make sure that counseling is in place for young women who get pregnant.

It appears there is a small gap in what those volunteer organizations in Utah are providing to the special needs children and homeless children throughout the state.

What the case of Utah tells me is that state representatives governed by and kowtowing to the ultra right talk a lot about responsibliity, but in the end take none.  And that they want women to sacrifice all of their rights, with no sustained effort by the state to meet its own obligations.  Wimmer wants to use his legislation as a “model” for other states. It’s a chilling model for all of our futures.