Whether people should need a license to have children isn’t a new conversation. In 1980, Hugh LaFollette, Marie E. and Leslie Cole Emeritus Professor in Ethics at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg and Editor-in-Chief of the International Encyclopedia of Ethics, argued in favor of licensing parents because, in short,
…any activity that is potentially harmful to others and requires certain demonstrated competence for its safe performance is subject to regulation — that is, it is theoretically desirable that we regulate it.
It’s hard to disagree with a measure that would serve in the best interests of children. Yes, it would challenge people’s “right” to have children, but anyone who loves children would have to agree that a child’s quality of life is more important than a person’s right to sometimes thoughtfully, but often cavalierly/recklessly/accidentally/greedily/selfishly, have a child.
After all, we offer protections to existing children through the adoption process. It could be argued that potential children should be granted those same protections, that we should care just as much about who they end up with.
A fun question asked now and then on Reddit is, “If a license were needed to parent, what would hopeful parents have to do to qualify for the license?”
The following (partial) excerpt from my novel The Age of the Child is my ideal list of requirements:
Guidelines— Parent Licensing
1. Licensing requirements apply to any citizen seeking to be a primary biological and/or adoptive parent.
2. Primary Applicants may not be denied a license based on race, sex, gender, sexual preference, marital status, or political affiliation.
3. Primary Applicants must be between the ages of eighteen (18) and thirty (30).
4. Primary Applicants must have a verified Family Care Plan (FCP). A Family Care Plan is defined as one or more licensed individuals who will assume the guardianship of any Primary Applicant’s offspring in the event of the Primary Applicant’s absence due to death or other causes.
-a. FCPs may extend to family, friends, and all other parties invested in the welfare of the child.
-b. Applicants for secondary guardianship licenses under the FCP must be between the ages of eighteen (18) and sixty-five (65).
-c. FCP volunteers signing as physical guardians must be licensed as secondary guardians.
-d. Primary Applicants and FCP secondary guardians must:
— i. pass a cognitive evaluation.
— ii. pass a six-month in-home dog care evaluation.
— iii. prove a sole or combined income matching or exceeding the minimum cost of raising a child as determined by each year’s calculated projections.
-e. FCP volunteers wishing to contribute solely by financial means (FCP(f)) need not be licensed, but finances must be verified.
5. License is valid for the lifetime of the child(ren) born of a sanctioned pregnancy. Each additional pregnancy requires an additional license.
6. Any unlicensed individual or individuals convicted of (conceiving an unsanctioned) pregnancy will incur a $5,178 fine and lose licensing privileges in perpetuity.
-a. Should an unsanctioned pregnancy occur, the individual or individuals responsible will be sentenced to an indefinite period in Exile.
-b. Unlicensed pregnancies will be carried to term, at which time the child will become the ward of an adoptive family or, in lieu of an available family, the state.
8. Licensed parents convicted of abuse, neglect, or abandonment of a sanctioned child will be exiled.
-a. The abused, neglected, or abandoned child will become the ward of a licensed adoptive family or, in lieu of an available family, the state.
This would, of course, never work in the real world (nor is it a perfect solution in the novel), because in real life, people in power will always find ways to corrupt a well-meaning program to suit their racist, greedy, or otherwise self-serving interests.
But, for fun…
If you were to make a list of parent licensing guidelines, what would be on it?