General Question

Hobbes's avatar

Should the state require prospective parents to obtain a license?

Asked by Hobbes (7368points) August 4th, 2008

There are a great number of people who are unfit to be parents. Cases of child abuse are sickeningly common (Here is a link to a particularly disturbing case). Some parents simply cannot afford their children, or, even if they are not abusive, are simply neglectful. On top of that, the population is increasing at an alarming rate, rapidly approaching a point at which we won’t be able to sustain ourselves.

So my question is: in light of these factors, should parents be required to take a test, proving that they would make good parents, and to meet certain financial and mental health standards. Such a system wouldn’t be perfect, but I think it would be a step towards preventing this sort of thing from occurring.

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39 Answers

AstroChuck's avatar

How would the logistics work? It would be nice, but it obviously could never happen. Abusive parents do get sentenced to parenting classes. If that doesn’t work, or the abuse is really bad, the courts take away parenting rights. I think that that’s as far as the state can go.

syz's avatar

While it may seem like a good idea, it will never happen. Arguments about reproductive rights, racial and ecomonic bias, and even genocide would ensue forthwith.

poofandmook's avatar

I’ve been saying it for years… though I don’t pretend to know how such a test would look.

augustlan's avatar

Should? Yes. Could, or would? Nope.

PupnTaco's avatar

A little creepy for me.

Lovelocke's avatar

No. Free country, no matter how many rights have been violated by the regime. We’re not a communist country, the UN hasn’t pinpointed us for overpopulation.

Indy318's avatar

Out forefathers crafted the constitution to protect the population’s natural rights. The right to bare children is a unalienable right
(as written in the UNs Declaration of Human Rights) that no one, not even our gov, can take away or control. Requiring a license to reproduce is like fining someone for breathing, those are just basic human characterics needed for survival of our species. I agree that parenting classes should be giving to any abusive parent but a license may prevent righteous couples from practing a healthy relationship.

jtvoar16's avatar


nikipedia's avatar

Wow. Out of curiosity, would we grant different kinds of licenses (or not grant them at all) depending on level of fitness? Like would we give Class A licenses to people with stellar genes and a lot of money and Class D licenses to people who just barely make the fitness cutoff? Or is it an all-or-nothing license?

Hypothetically speaking, what would the punishment be for having an unlicensed child? Hefty fines? Forced sterilization? Required parenting classes?

poofandmook's avatar

@niki: It’s not about health, it’s about child abuse.

nikipedia's avatar

@poofandmook: What’s the difference?

btko's avatar

It would cost a great deal of money to administer a licensing program.. why not instead put all of that money toward better social programs, parent education and support, day care, etc.

I think it’s more prudent to create a better society for children to grow up in than limit their birth.

Also, it would most certainly turn into a type of license one can only get with enough cash.

poofandmook's avatar

@niki: Um, because a child can live a full, happy life with a few genetically-inherited health problems. A child cannot do that, however, if its head is bashed in, or if it’s left in the basement to starve, or if it’s sexually abused by a step-parent who is a known sex offender (which happened to someone close to my family)

Hobbes's avatar

While I see your point, btko, I’d have to agree with poofandmook. If there is a known sex offender in the family, I don’t think any amount of social programs will prevent a child born into that family from being abused. I am fully in support of expanding day care programs, parent education programs, etc, but I think that a mandatory license would create a degree of certainty about the safety of any new child.

nikipedia's avatar

@poofandmook: Okay. I didn’t realize you were referring to the genetic fitness part (please note that I did not take a side either way). Was pointing out that abuse = damage to health, mental or physical.

augustlan's avatar

Sexual predators that prey on children should be sterilized (if not stoned to death in the public square)!

MrMeltedCrayon's avatar

@ Niki: My grandfather and father were both very physically active and buff when they were my age; I’m a pudgy little shit. The notion of use/disuse determining the traits passed to children were long ago dismissed as being incorrect. My point is that physical fitness isn’t always tied into genes, and that really healthy people aren’t necessarily healthy because of their genetic material.

In an ideal world, some people just wouldn’t be capable of reproducing. However, I think that a parenting license would be both a logistical nightmare as well as a breach of rights. All we can do is hope that the people that shouldn’t have children fill out the pages of the Darwin awards.

SuperMouse's avatar

No, I do not think parents should have to have a license to have kids. Mandatory parenting classes? Maybe. When I had my babies in California I got a whole set of videos from a group called First Five, they gave them to me before I left the hospital. Something like that might make sense. Abusive jerks are going to be abusive jerks and poor parents, license or no license.

As an aside, I have a friend who was adopted. Hers was one of the most dysfunctional families I’ve ever heard about. Her parents were abusive, dad was an alcoholic, etc. She once asked her mom how they managed to get past the adoption agency checks. Her mom told her simply, “we lied.”

poofandmook's avatar

basically, what happened in the situation I mentioned, is that my mom’s best friend can’t seem to get off meth, and she has a daughter who’s now 16. When she was 8, she married a man that she knew had been in jail at one point for sexual misconduct with a child. So a parenting license could’ve helped avoid that, in theory.

Lovelocke's avatar

“Genetic Fitness” huh. What was this practice called? It’s on the tip of my tongue. There was a large trial done involving inbreeding that believed within X number of generations they will have given birth to children “of the next stage of evolution”.

They had miserable failure, but then they ended up changing their name to planned parenthood and intended to achieve the same result via birth control.

SuperMouse's avatar

@P&M, who would have needed the license, the mom or the step-dad? Would the mom have had her original license revoked for making such a bone-headed move, or is it valid forever?

@Lovelocke, isn’t it called Eugenics?

Lovelocke's avatar

@Nut: Looks about right to me! Bonus token awarded.

poofandmook's avatar

@supernutjob: I suppose both. But again, I’m for the idea… and I don’t pretend to have any clue how it might work. I think that the kid should’ve been taken away from her forever, because in the end, it’s the mother’s fault it happened, maybe even moreso than the step-father’s. She knew when she was dating him, so her marrying him and bringing him into her home directly put her daughter in harm’s way. 100% her fault. Bye bye rights to children, since you’ve already knowingly royally screwed up the one you have. But then maybe I’m biased because of this situation.

Hobbes's avatar

@supernutjob: “Abusive jerks are going to be abusive jerks and poor parents, license or no license.”

The idea is that abusive jerks wouldn’t get the license. Also, the adoption system needs a lot of work, and the licensing system would ideally be more reliable.

I also agree with poofandmook – if you obtain the license, and abuse your child, I would say that you should have all future possibility of parenting revoked.

MrKnowItAll's avatar

What’s wrong with a Learners Permit?

marinelife's avatar

Wow, how small a step is it for the state licensing for children to the state deciding your mate for you and your occupation and where you can live. This is all sounding like a pretty scary utopia. There are prices for freedom. One of the prices is that some people will abuse the freedom.

I would not condone a license at all. It seems to me there are many steps we can take short of that. We can teach parenting skills. We can teach it in the schools. We can provide materials to couples who are having a baby as supernutjob suggested.

We can enforce laws now on the books. We can take children away and require mandatory counseling at the first signs of abuse. We can do education campaigns to get people to call about suspected abuse.

@Indy318 I don’t really think the founding fathers or the UN thought our kids should have to run around naked.

SuperMouse's avatar

That sounds like a huge bureaucracy. I can’t help but think of the Bureau of Homeland Security and their No Fly passenger watch list with over 1 million people.

Would I have to apply for the license as soon as I had a positive pregnancy test? What if I didn’t? What if I flunked the licensing test?

Instead of funneling the kind of money that would be required into creating another arm of government, we should have all kinds of resources available, affordable, and easily accessible to all parents. Everything from parenting classes, to anger management, to respite care.

Indy318's avatar

As most of us can agree, parenting in the US is not as “perfect” as we want it to and could be improved. Becoming a
parent is one of the most burdensome responsibilties one can endow upon themself and is an art more than science. It cannot be perfected nor can it be indentical to someone else’s experience. However, I do believe potential parents should be educated throughly on major aspects of parenting. This responsility should not be taken lightly by anyone. Educating people on this matter should begin as early as high school (I don’t consider a plastic doll as training). Students shouldn’t nessacarily be taught not to have children but should be enlightened about the major responsilbities assicated with having kids. Most neglected and abused children are the product of an unwanted conception or ill-prepared parents, so the first child should result in the most secrutiny by child services.

I speak as a teenager and not as a parent. I may be idealist but an smart enough to realize their are monsters out there in the world. Sex offenders and neglectful parents are the type of people that should be required to have their rights to bare children taken away. However in a world like ours, it is tough to root out monsters like them, so a license or something to a lesser extent may need to be implemented.

lefteh's avatar


I agree with Marina. The decision to have a child is between the two partners and perhaps their families and friends. Uncle Sam should not have a say in this. That’s not to say that if you have a child and abuse it the government should not get involved, but that is where their responsibility begins. No way do I want to government telling me or anybody else whether or not to have kids. This isn’t China, nor is it England in 1984.

nikipedia's avatar

@Marina: I don’t see any need to fall down that slippery slope. Why can’t we combine these options? Mandate parenting classes as a prerequisite to the parenting license, much like driving school is required before getting a driver’s license in many states. I wonder if we did not require driver’s licenses at the moment, and someone suddenly came up with the idea for it, would we all start complaining about infringements on our freedom?

nikipedia's avatar

@MrMeltedCrayon: I apologize for my sloppy use of the English language. I was using the term fitness as it’s used in biology, not in the vernacular. My mistake.

MrMeltedCrayon's avatar

@Niki: That would be my mistake, not yours. :P

tinyfaery's avatar

If said license required parents to teach their kids some manners and keep them out of movie theaters then I say go for it. I spend most of my time cleaning up the messes made by bad parents.

But it really isn’t possible. The government is already way to invloved in our private lives anyway.

skwerl88's avatar

But what about all of us accident children? Don’t we deserve life as well?

marinelife's avatar

@niki If we didn’t have such a bad track record about going down the slippery slope, I might agree with you, but we do.

I shudder every time I hear someone say “Why not have a national identity card? I have nothing to hide.” or the like. They just don’t get it.

KimberlyLD's avatar

As much as this idea sounds like it would make all potential children safe, and keep the “unfit parents” from having/adopting children, the idea is fraught with logistical issues.
including who would be judge and jury? What is “enough money”? What is “normal”?

With a government that takes months to process passports, and taxes, how long would it take to process “permits to procreate with intent to create a child”? And what happens to those who don’t get a permit, but get a baby?

My mother always said anyone can have sex and make a baby, but it takes special people to make parents. Would you really trust any government body to determine who is special? Artistic? Maternal?

I can’t. As much as the idea might be tempting every time I read an article about an abused or murdered child.

augustlan's avatar

In looking over my responses to this question, it became clear that my past is showing. I had a mom who was unwilling or unable to care for me and protect me properly (from a child molester). She is one who would have been denied the theoretical license. However, then I wouldn’t be here, I wouldn’t be so determined to be a better mother to my 3 children, and they wouldn’t go out into the world and improve their little corner of it.

augustlan's avatar

In addition, as others have mentioned, who would be the judge? We can’t trust our politicians to choose the best judges for our legal system, why should we trust them with something this fundamental? Then there’s the problem of hindsight. In many, many cases, abusers and neglecters would pass the “written” test, only to fail the “real life” version. Nobody knows what kind of parent they’ll be until after they are one!

Knotmyday's avatar

I’m thinking more on the order of a state-sponsored parenting class than a licensing process.

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