Foster and Adoptive Families Disproportionately Struggle with Baby Formula Shortages

PC: Kayana Szymczak for The New York Times

By Darling Gonzalez and Mihajla Milovanovic

WASHINGTON, DC – Families all over the U.S. are seeing a significant decrease in the supply of baby formula being sold. More specifically, rates have dropped where the nationwide out-of-stock rate has reached 43 percent.

With the number of adoptions and birth rates constantly increasing, the shortage of baby formula has impacted families who are unable to produce their own formula and rely on the supply in stores to feed their children.

In Donna M. Owens’ article, “Baby formula shortage is particularly painful for foster and adoptive families,” Owens emphasized the nationwide effects of baby formula shortages as well as the attempts to assist families in need.

Owens writes how President Joe Biden has created the Defense Production Act and would like to import formula from abroad in order to avoid further bacterial infections of infants.

Originally, manufacturers like Abbott agreed to thoroughly investigate the products due to infants becoming ill. This investigation process would take up to six weeks to conclude and to get workers back in the factory.

This helped lead to the shortage.

Regarding the process of adoption, families are physically unable to wait weeks for formula production.

Rachel Dinwoodie states, “Not being able to meet the basic needs of the children entrusted to you through foster care and adoption can add acute stressors to families that are often already managing early life traumas.”

Due to the shortages, reports in the news note many parents are obliged to ration food or travel for long hours to purchase formula, while retailers are also limiting the amount of formula that families can purchase at one time.

Nationwide, almost 50 percent of baby formula is purchased by families that are a part of the government’s Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children, also known as WIC.

Owen’s story also includes how many non-profit and grassroots organizations are participating in helping the foster care populations that are in dire need of these resources.

Graham Windham, for example, is a social service agency that serves 900 foster children with a large population being children of color.

Kimberly Hardy Watson, the agency’s CEO and president, explained, “In these times of scarcity, the price of baby formula has skyrocketed, making it very difficult for our families to afford the formula once they’ve found it.”

Another non-profit group in Los Angeles, Baby2Baby, expressed its own concern over the baby formula shortage—the group provides baby products to children in foster care, homeless shelters, domestic violence programs, hospitals and underserved schools on a national scale.

“Many parents who already struggled to afford formula are resorting to watering down the little formula they have to make it last longer, while others cannot feed their babies at all,” co-CEOs Norah Weinstein and Kelly Sawyer Patricof said in a recent letter to their network, Owens included in the article.

Owens added how Baby2Baby has found alternative options in response to the national shortage by working with wholesale partners who could produce the baby formula for a fraction of the price to further support families who are in dire need.

Likewise, due to the national shortage, the Human Milk Banking Association of North America has also been considered a potential resource for adoptive and foster families who are in need of baby formula.

Lindsay Groff, executive director of the group, explained the international guidelines for human donor milk which include pooling, pasteurization, and testing.

Owens furthermore included major steps being taken to ensure the safety of the production of baby formula in the market.

She added, “On Wednesday, the House of Representatives passed a supplemental funding bill to provide the FDA with resources to address the shortage, including by increasing the number of inspectors and helping the agency stop fraudulent baby formula from entering the marketplace.”

Similarly, the Agriculture Department has worked to facilitate the purchase of formula for families with WIC benefits.

The U.S. Dept. of Agriculture has also urged states to provide a wider variety of products available for families who use WIC benefits so that if the products under WIC are out of stock they can have other alternatives. 

About The Author

Darling is an incoming junior at UCLA, majoring in English and Political Science with an interest in law. She is originally from Bell Gardens, California.

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