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Crisis proportions

THE STATEMENT by Carolyn Smith from the Massachusetts Adoption Resource Exchange that a foster child waits 11 months to be adopted in the Commonwealth is inaccurate (''Workers rush to fill void left by Boston agency's decision," March 11). In fact, the data are far more troubling.

Federal data suggest that the median number of months from the child's most recent entry into state custody, or out-of-home care, to a finalized adoption in Massachusetts is nearly three years for children between ages zero and 5. Between ages 6 and 12, that number increases to nearly five years. Between ages 13 and 17, the wait lengthens to over five years. This last figure virtually guarantees that at least 700 older foster children leave the system each year, alone for the rest of their lives.

Catholic Charities' decision to discontinue its adoption services is horrifying. However, its withdrawal from this arena only highlights a longstanding and much bigger problem. We are simply not doing enough for children waiting in Massachusetts now. This should be an alert to mobilize the state around the needs of children, not the ideology of adults.

MAUREEN K. FLATLEY
Essex

The writer is a lobbyist specializing in removing barriers to adoption in public policy at the state, federal, and international levels.

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