Evaluating Lafollette’s Argument That Parents Should Be Licensed
Ensuring children’s safety is probably a challenging responsibility for many parents. In the article “Licensing Parents,” Hugh Lafollette asserts that the state should necessitate all parents to be licensed to enhance security of children. The process of licensing parents is compared to that of adopting children, but Lafollette’s proposal advocates for a less strict process, since no parent should be denied raising children. This study will support the argument that parents should be licensed because we need parents who are accountable to their responsibilities.
Lafollette is arguing that the society is bound to regulate certain activities, particularly when such activities are likely to cause harm or injury to others. For instance, the driers are required to have licenses since “driving an auto is an activity which is potentially harmful to others, safe performance of the activity requires a certain competence (Lafollette 183). This implies that an individual requires a display of proficiency to be eligible for a license. This argument is bound to work on licensing parents because parents should be competent in their quest to raise responsible children. Society relies on competent parents to remain productive in both social and economic aspects. Unless preventive investment is carried out during early childhood, the future of our society would be undesirable. Thus, licensing parents would assist in investing on a healthy society.
One of the arguments that Lafollette raised in supporting his claim is that licensing parents would assist in regulating potentially harmful activities (183). Just like we license some activities, such as medical practice, driving, fishing, and manufacturing, so is the need for licensing parents. If the society has placed high valued on parenthood, then a new standard of parenting is necessary. The existing custom only considers children as ‘properties’ of their biological parents. No rule is available to guide on responsible parenting. No wonder we are witnessing parents claiming children that they have not raised, many years after the children have already forgotten them. Licensing parents would enable parents to be not just biological parents, but also adhering to parental responsibilities. Some of the socioeconomic problems that the society is experiencing today can be blamed for poor parenting.
People may argue that licensing is intolerable since every individual has the right to bear children, but Lafollette believes that such argument is not credible enough (186). Although right to have children is equated to other rights, such as right to speech and freedom to worship, individuals break these rights, thus, causing risks to other individuals. No individual is permitted to talk about anything that could harm other people just because such individual has the right to speech. This can also apply to parenting, where children require responsible parents who would guarantee them safety at all times. One reason why we have street children is because some parents have failed to live up their expectations, leading loss of hope, substance abuse, and juvenile crime.
Although licensing parents is perceived as an essential side-effect of licensing parents, Lafollette believes that government intervention in licensing parents is “probably less than, the present (and presumably justifiable) encroachment into the lives of people who apply to adopt children” (187). If we consider situations where some parents have abused their children, we could say that the government is to blame for allowing such parents to handle children. Real parents should show the same commitment as those parents who apply to adopt children. The government may not be harsh on parents who would be having licenses as it would be to parents who are denied licenses.
One of the realistic objection that individuals could raise about licensing parents is that no adequate criteria to identify good parents. According to Lafollette, it is not necessary to create fine distinctions that would rate parents as excellent or worst parents, as licensing should only target to distinguish the bad parents (190). Society would prefer dealing with an average parent to a bad parent. The difference between a caring parent and uncaring parent is can be visible through children’s behavior. If the technique of licensing parents is capable of recognizing bad parents, then such technique should be applauded.
Lafollette has compared the system of licensing parents with the adoptive process, though he proposes a less rigorous process. Individuals who want to become parents must be tested on their capacity to care for the children. If individuals who want to adopt children can agree to undergo a thorough procedure to qualify for adopting children, than parents should be eager to demonstrate how well they can cater for their biological children. Children’s safety cannot be guaranteed if parents do not demonstrate their capabilities before entering parenthood. What should come out of both biological parents and adoptive parents is the capacity to raise responsible children.
Parents should be licensed to facilitate an upright society where parents are committed to taking sufficient care of their children. Licensing would demonstrate the society’s commitment to able parenting. Lafollette proposes that a system of licensing parents should not be as stringent as other that of drivers or doctors, as it should be focused on attaining desired results. He stated that unlicensed people should not be denied a chance to rear children, but incentives should be awarded to encourage parents to acquire the license. This is an excellent idea because parents would ensure that they raise their children in the right way to acquire the license, which would, in turn, qualify them for tax incentives.
Lafollette, Hugh. “Licensing Parents.” Philosophy and Public Affairs 9.2 (1980): 182-197.