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Center for Advanced Studies in Child Welfare

Center for Advanced Studies in Child Welfare

Group pays drug addicts to get sterilized or receive long-term birth control, sparks criticism

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This guest blog post was written by Johanna Zabawa.

Group pays drug addicts to get sterilized or receive long-term birth control, sparks criticism: Founder launched group after adopting four children from a crack addict.


[Photo from the Project Prevention Facebook page]

On May 9, 2012, Rheana Murray, with the New York Daily News published an article on a controversial non-profit called Project Prevention (formerly known as CRACK: Children Requiring A Caring Kommunity). Project Prevention, based out of North Carolina, pays women $300 to either get tubal ligations (permanent sterilization), or other forms of long-term birth control such as IUDs, Implanon, or Depro-Provera shots. The article does well discussing both supportive and oppositional opinions revolved around the program's practices. Founder Barbara Harris holds firm to the position that Project Prevention is about preventing unwanted pregnancies and placing fewer burdens on the child welfare system. Harris has adopted four siblings, all from the same mother who was addicted to crack. The program believes that decreasing unwanted pregnancies from addict populations will aid with the economic burden on taxpayers, trim down social worker caseloads, and alleviate clients from "the burden of having children that will potentially be taken away" ( The article also provides opposing viewpoints of Project Prevention, including beliefs that the program is "thinly disguised" racism, targeting vulnerable populations and women of color. Critics condemn the program further by discussing that addicts may not be in a position to make decisions of this magnitude, especially when offered money. Harris responds to criticism within the article stating that two thirds of the women Project Prevention has served are White, and that the majority of women choose long term birth control over sterilization.

This article, as well as an article from the LA TIMES, bring up interesting albeit controversial view points surrounding the amount of children entering into foster care from drug addicted families, and what role or responsibility, if any, does the child welfare system have in preventative measures with these families. Harris argues that "its just not fair" to the children whose parents have either no intention or ability to remain sober. She believes the amount of children entering into the foster care system is preventable. The last 20 women who chose sterilization through her program were pregnant a combined total of 120 times. Out of those pregnancies, "Thirty were either aborted, stillborn or died after being born and seventy-eight are in foster care." The LA TIMES article, written in 2009, describes birth control as the "elephant in the room of the child welfare system". Although it seems like an area that many workers and county agencies would be interested in supporting further, outside of their counseling and advising regarding birth control and pregnancy prevention, it might challenge agency boundaries and the constitutional rights of the women who are addicted to make more formal supports through policy and practice.

This article focuses on issues related to permanency and adoption that might not be at the forefront of most of our minds, yet is a challenge that impacts child welfare agencies and addicted parents everyday. The article perhaps promotes the idea or frame of thought that the majority of children and siblings entering into care are abandoned by drug-addicted parents, and every drug addicted mother is producing multitudes of children who are bound for the foster care system. Neither article includes the point of view of children who have come from drug-addicted parents and foster care, nor those parents or mothers who have fought addiction and have been reunited with their children.

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