Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Children's Rights

There was a time when adoption was thought of as a means of providing children for childless couples.

That position is now reversed and the function of adoption is to provide parents for children who, for one reason or another, are effectively parentless. In other words, consideration of the needs of the child is paramount.

This is enlightenment in action, it constitutes genuine progress in social thinking.

Now consider this: There was a time when children were expected to be conceived and born within a married relationship, and this was, traditionally in this country, the situation in the vast majority of cases. A woman having a child “out of wedlock” would be socially stigmatised and so would her child.

“Shotgun” weddings were not uncommon as people took responsibility for their actions, sometimes less than willingly.

Nowadays, about 35% of the 60,000+ Irish children born each year are “out of wedlock” and many of these are born outside of any long-term relationship or commitment of the child’s parents.

It has become socially unacceptable to express any reservations about such births. Indeed, it is decidedly non-pc to express anything other than the heartiest congratulations to the mother, the father if he is known, and the grandparents.

This is supposedly enlightenment in action and many people seem to believe that it constitutes progress in social thinking.

Yet consider the needs of the child and contrast this line of thinking with that which now applies to adoption. Why should we accept a lower standard of consideration for the rights and needs of children with their natural mothers or parents than we do for children with adoptive parents?

Children are neither playthings or companions to alleviate boredom, pets to provide unconditional love or mere fashion accessories to be paraded in public. Nor, dare I say it, are they just another example of "a woman's right to choose". They have a right to expect love, security, care and consideration from both their parents. It is a major commitment over an extended period of many years.

The fact that marriages and other long-term relationships can, and all too frequently do, break down is no justification for society to abandon the fundamental moral requirement for a parental commitment to the provision of the best possible family environment for children, before bringing them into the world.

Unmarried parents of children must take responsibility for the consequences of their own voluntary actions.

And taking care to avoid the hyprocrisy and stigmatisation of the past, the rest of us must not be intimidated by the new amoral orthodoxy from saying so.

The paradox is that current welfare rules discriminate against unmarried parents cohabiting, when it should be doing the exact opposite - subsidising them to do so for the benefit of the children.

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