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The one thing pro-life and pro-choice advocates agree on

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COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio has historically remained lower than most states in the nation for child care funding, and advocates on both sides of the abortion argument say that needs to change.

The state was ranked last in the country for funding support in 2017, according to the Public Children Services Association of Ohio’s (PCSAO) Safety, Permanency & Well-being report from that year.

“Even if Ohio doubled state spending on child protection, it would remain 50th in the nation,” PCSAO’s analysis added.

Ohio was listed as 31st in the country for “child well-being” in 2021 by the KIDS COUNT Data Center. This rank was decreased by Rutgers Graduate School of Education’s National Institute for Early Education Research, listing Ohio at 33 for state spending at 38 for total spending.

Pro-life Ohio organizations believe adoption is the best thing for an unexpected pregnancy, but pro-choice advocates say there are plenty of children who need help now.

There are more than 15,000 children who are either in foster or residential care, according to state data.

“I can tell you there’s countless families like mine that are stand ready to adopt where the need arises,” Michael Gonidakis, president of Ohio Right to Life, said.

The organization wants to help people have healthy children, but they understand the need to put a baby up for adoption, Gonidakis added.

Mike Moroski is the executive director of the Human Services Chamber of Hamilton County and the policy & equity committee chair of the Cincinnati Public Schools Board of Education. He has a much different perspective on how to move forward after Ohio banned most abortions.

“People out there who are running around saying ‘adopt kids,’ I got news for you,” Moroski said. “There are a ton of kids, why don’t you adopt them?”

However, both men agree children should be the priority of the state.

“The foster care system needs more money,” Gonidakis said. “We have it, and shame on our elected officials if they don’t use it to help children.”

After Ohio’s decision to ban abortion at six weeks went into effect, there has been a scramble to figure out what could happen with the state’s already overwhelmed foster and adoption system.

Gonidakis, who adopted his daughter from Guatemala at seven months and his son from Cleveland at three days, believes that the solution could be making the system more accessible for families.

“I personally worked on legislation here in Ohio to reduce the cost of an adoption because we had to take an equity line out on our home to pay for the adoptions — it was too expensive,” he said. “We need to make sure that there’s less bureaucracy and more ability for those families that want to evolve to be able to do that.”

Moroski said it is much larger than that.

“They are forcing people to give birth to children that will have nothing for them,” Moroski said. “We’re talking about a state government that went out of its way to ensure that gay couples could not adopt children.”

That, combined with the pandemic, makes the overturning of Roe v. Wade even more costly, he added. This is especially for Black children since state data shows the system disproportionately impacts them.

“I’ll start with racism,” the pro-choice advocate said. “I know why they’re not adopting them.

“They’re waiting on lists for white babies to come up and they’re not adopting these Black and Brown children that are in foster care.”

He makes it clear that reunification should be the goal of foster care, but his point still stands.

“I would just tell people to open their hearts and maybe not look at skin color or whatever complication that may arise, whether the child has a special need or not,” Gonidakis said, noting that his children are different races than he is and he loves them just the same, of course.

He also agreed with Moroski that it is “sad and unfortunate” that people have preconceived notions about foster children.

“The reason I am so passionate about this, the reason I get so upset about it is because the people that are getting the most screwed by our state government are young children,” Moroski said. “Now you’ve got a state government that is capitalizing upon the egregious decision made by the Supreme Court to overturn Roe versus Wade, to force women to bring children into this type of environment, knowing full well that there will be no protections for these children.”

The advocate works with foster home coalitions and said they have been struggling.

“Less staff, less money, higher need,” he said, listing off their challenges. “Money is down, particularly in urban centers, because, again, the state legislature made it so that people didn’t have to pay their earnings tax if they were working remotely. So all the people at Procter & Gamble and Kroger are at home, not having to pay their earnings tax — and so our city government doesn’t have any money.”

P&G and Kroger are each headquartered in Cincinnati.

“Government is a necessary cog in the wheel, figuring out how to fund the agencies in these 88 counties that actually do the hard work in an equitable way, that has a low barrier of entry for agencies that are doing the real hard work, I think is important, and I do think that’s their role,” Moroski said.

Statehouse reporter Morgan Trau reached out to more than a dozen foster and adoption agencies who all declined to speak, with some adding that this is too complex of an issue to talk about right now.

In the meantime, Gov. Mike DeWine addressed the state Friday by laying out his plans for supporting children.

This included the Bold Beginnings Initiative, which would provide $1 billion dollars for child care help like prenatal care and nutrition assistance.

Follow statehouse reporter Morgan Trau on Twitter and Facebook.





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