A Right to Adopt and Parental Licensing

No court recognizes the right to adopt a child. By contrast, we embrace family formation rights and protect choices about whether to marry, procreate, and rear biological children. These rights are needed because families play a key role in society, and family formation is central to a happy and self-directed life. For similar reasons, we should recognize the right to adopt and stop aggressively screening adoptive parents in ways we would not tolerate for biological parents. 

Some advocates of child-centered morality think we should equalize the treatment of adoptive and biological parents in the opposite way—scrutinizing biological parents’ homes like adoptive homes and requiring people to get licenses before rearing children. 

I argue against these positions. Parental licensing would exacerbate the discrimination in our child welfare system, prevent too many nonabusive parents from forming families, and harm more children than it helps. Aggressive adoption screening is wrong for the same reasons: it discriminates, deprives many prospective parents of a chance to form families, and harms more children than it helps. Arguments to the contrary based on child-centered morality or practical differences between adoption and procreation are unpersuasive.