As Parenting Moves from Right to Privilege

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If the government can take a couple’s children away from them based on an undefined sense that they’re more likely than average to make mistakes, we’ve reached a state of totalitarianism that handles parenting as a privilege, not a right.  Continuing one’s ancestral line must be at least as fundamental a right as working to persuade others to share one’s ideas and striving to perpetuate one’s belief system.

But Oregon appears to be pushing the boundaries:

For nearly four years, the Redmond couple has been fighting to prove to the state of Oregon that they are intellectually capable of raising their children. The Department of Human Services has removed both of their boys, saying the parents are too mentally limited to be good parents.

Fabbrini, 31, and Ziegler, 38, lost custody of their older son, Christopher, shortly after he was born. Five months ago, the state took their second child, newborn Hunter, directly from the hospital. Both are now in foster care.

One has to read a little between the lines, but it appears that the problem began with a bitter grandfather who didn’t like his daughter and had just lost his wife.  In the outcome, however, this story may not be all that unusual:

Across the country, a national study estimates that somewhere between 40 percent and 80 percent of parents with intellectual disabilities lose their parental rights.

The topic certainly isn’t an easy one to discuss broadly, because few folks would want to insist on an absolute right to parent, even in cases of clear and immediate danger to children.  However, if the standard is, as Samantha Swindler’s Oregonian article seems to imply, that a parent might fall asleep while lying next to a baby and periodically forgets to feed his dog, broad swaths of our society will be at risk of having children confiscated.

On this path, we can’t be far from government’s asserting a right to take children away from parents whose children might be at risk of learning undesired values.



  • Rhett Hardwick

    Decisions of this sort are already made in divorce courts every day.

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