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Americans United for Life ranks Arkansas as the No. 1 pro-life state in the nation, and today I’d like to talk about a few of the organizations and people that give meaning to that designation.
Arkansas is blessed with thousands of people who devote their lives to promoting and protecting life. They understand that a pro-life stand is more than protecting the lives of the unborn. A state that aspires to be pro-life must protect the most vulnerable at every stage of life. That’s why we have worked so hard to reduce the number of children in foster care, to place children in state care with relatives, and to find families who will adopt a child. Since 2016, we have reduced the number of children in foster care from more than 5,200 down to 4,500 at the end of June. At the end of 2021, 42 percent of children in foster care had been placed with relatives, which achieves a better outcome than when children are placed with nonrelatives.
Arkansas’s effort to protect life extends to children of all ages. Arkansas State Police works with the Department of Human Services to investigate reports of child abuse. Last year, the two agencies investigated more than 27,000 reports of child maltreatment. The State Police Crimes Against Children Division has a toll-free telephone line to report suspected child abuse. The phone number is 844-SaveAChild (728-3224).
This year, the General Assembly enhanced our pro-life reputation with passage of Act 187 that allocated $1 million for organizations that support pregnancy resource centers, maternity homes, and adoption agencies.
Restore Hope is a nonprofit that supports three programs for its pro-life work: A re-entry program to smooth the transition from prison for inmates who are returning to their families and communities. Re-Entry provides education, job training, and substance abuse counseling.
Restore Hope’s Alternative Sentencing initiative offers a defendant the chance for counseling and school instead of community service, a fine, or jail. This is a pro-life proposal for men and women who are serious about improving their situation.
Restore Hope’s 100 Families program reunites and stabilizes families through partnerships with agencies and churches.
Project Zero is a faith-based organization that aims to find an adoptive family for every child in foster care. Project Zero’s online Arkansas Heart Gallery is a collection of photographs of children who are waiting to be adopted.
Arkansas Baptist Children’s Homes and Family Ministries is renovating Markham Street Baptist Church in Little Rock as its headquarters and a resource facility. With its new building, Baptist Children’s Homes is providing a place where biological parents can visit their children who are living in a foster home. The ministry provides transportation, specially trained drivers, and supervisors for the visits. Mark White of the Arkansas Department of Human Services said this is the only organization in the state to offer this service.
That’s an overview of the work that a few organizations are doing on behalf of children and Arkansas families in crisis. Each takes its own approach, but the goal of each is to fix broken families. Arkansans care for every member of a family, born and unborn. That’s what makes Arkansas the No. 1 pro-life state.