By: Natalytha Bella Lovingstine
March 27, 2015
Ethicists have debated over many issues, including termination of parental rights for children placed into long-term foster care. In this paper I will argue against the idea that it is critical to the idea of family to allow parents to maintain rights even when there is only a remote chance for those parents to be able to successfully care for their children. Some ethicists argue that parents should retain all rights to their children regardless of the circumstances. However, other ethicists argue that it is not fair to the child to be stuck in care services and never have the chance or prospect to be adopted. Children deserve the right to a successful and plentiful life, whether with their birth parents or adopted ones. When a parent tries to hold onto their rights, without putting the childs needs first, the child is the one who is harmed. KantҒs categorical imperative and other theories will provide ethical arguments that children in foster care deserve the same respect and consideration as everyone else.
Ethical Considerations When Placing Children in Foster Care
This paper will integrate two opposing ethical positions. The first position is that it is critical to the idea of family to allow parents to maintain rights even when there is only a remote chance for those parents to be able to successfully care for their children. The second side is that it is ethically unfair to the child to be placed in care services without the chance or prospect of being adopted. Some ethical issues that pertain to this unfortunate social issue would include standards of care, informed consent relating to placement types, mental health, and post trial benefits (Millum & Emanuel, 2007).
When regarding the standard of the foster care system, childrens perspectives are, for the most part, not taken into account. An article written by Sally Holland, Delfabbro and Barber (2005, p. 331) explains that, in regards to children, ғfew systematic attempts have been made to obtain information regarding childrens satisfaction with care.Ҕ This article focused on research through quantitative and qualitative studies and surveys which describe childrens views on their standards of care.
After some initial methods were done, there were 44 peer-reviewed articles. The countries of origin of these articles included the United States (19), United Kingdom (14), the Netherlands (2), Iceland (1), Israel (1), Germany (1), Finland (1), Canada (1), and Australia (4) (Holland, 2009, p. 227). ғEight of these articles were concerned with childrens general experiences of the care system and the others covered a wide range of substantive issuesҔ (Holland, 2009, p. 227). Some of these articles described experiences of specific aspects of the foster care system. These aspects were things such as education, mental health services, and contact with relatives and advocacy (Holland, 2009, p. 227).
These articles demonstrated that placement of children in foster care services lack a theoretical base. Stevens (2006) asserts that the literature is mainly empirically driven and dominated by descriptive studiesӔ (p. 228).
Informed consent would be the right to be informed, and the right for the foster parents to participate in the childrens treatment (Molin & Palmer, 2005). Informed consent allows foster parents to play an active part in the foster childҒs medical and mental health treatments. Matters of informed consent and access to information about treatment influence relationships with the parents, legal guardians, Child Protective Service workers, and the childӔ (Molin & Palmer, 2005).
Kant asserts that ethics must be based purely on reason because when ethics are supported purely by emotion, those ethics tend to be misconstrued and lead in a direction which may appear to be a sound judgment for the moment, but may later have serious repercussions. When emotions are the only basis for decision-making, healthy decisions may be forgotten. Reason provides us with a reliable and sensible way of thinking, acting, and living. Kant believes that only pure reason could reveal the absolute universal truth of ethicsӔ (Waller, 2008, p. 20).
The truths revolving around ethics must be absolute and universal; conditional truths have no place within ethics so reason compensates. Kants view of ethics would argue that allowing parents to maintain parental rights based on sentimentality and ғblood relatives alone would not be ethical.
Pure reason might be supplied by well-controlled studies on the effects on the children Ԗ whether maintaining legal ties to blood relatives is more important than placement in a lasting, stable family.
Kants categorical imperative states ғDo unto others as you would have them do unto you (Waller, 2008, p. 22). This theory would argue that children placed in foster care should receive the same respect and consideration as children who are raised by their parents.
Children who are in foster care have a higher risk of mental complications and trusting issues. While some care providers are excellent, others look down on children in care services, and thus do not treat them with the same equalities in which they treat everyone else.
The second part of KantԒs categorical imperative is that all persons are entitled to be respected as rational beings that are capable of knowing the truths or morality and living by themӔ (Waller, 2008, p. 22). Children in foster care are entitled to be respected because they are human beings, and they are capable of comprehending truths and morality and sufficiently living by those means.
In addition, since this part of the categorical imperative states that all persons are to be respected as rational beings,Ӕ children who are able to act as rational beings should have some input into decisions regarding them.
Pojmans theory provides another point of view. ғPojman argues that we should strive to form a world in which the virtuous are rewarded and the vicious punished in proportion to their relative deserts (Pojman, 1999, p.4). Pojman believes that we deserve what we earn. I have found this claim to be inaccurate because when discussing compensatory desert it ԓsignifies that people should ideally be compensated for evils that were in no way their fault, evils that were either brute bad luck or brought on by other agents behaviorҔ (Pojman, 1999, p. 4). This aspect of Pojmans theory might suggest that parental rights should not be dissolved.
Foster children that do not get adopted have not had a chance at a fair life Җ evils that were either brute bad luck or brought on by other agentӒs behavior. These children did not deserve what they earned. A child is born virtuous and innocent, so why is it that some children have wonderful lives full of horses and candy, while other children are starving on the streets or in care services as orphans?
General misfortune and other peopleӒs bias against human nature and tendency to respond to situations with ignorance or precaution leads one to disagree with Pojmans theory that we ғdeserve what we earn, particularly when it comes to situations involving children that were not caused by those children.
The foundation of care ethics is based on the value of fostering relationships, close attention to personal details as abstract principles, and understanding ethical importance of affection and care for others (Waller, 2008, p.122).
Feelings provide a big part in care ethics as they explain and deeply explore the underlying meaning into interpersonal relationships. Children in foster care may have issues with trusting people because of a lack of interpersonal relationships as babies and children. Therefore, their affection and care for others may not be congruent with that of children who have been raised by their parents.
ԓAbstract principles can lose their usefulness and become harmful if they become ends in themselves that are more important than their actual effects on specific people (Waller, 2008, p.123). To me, this suggests that while care ethics are useful, ignoring some of the solid logical perspectives may result in harming or not assisting people, though the treatments provided are not based on logic.
When discussing treatment options with foster children or their workers, neglecting solid logical fact could end up harming the foster children if care ethics are included in the equation without attention to facts and logic as well. Reason plays into care ethics because ethical care and behavior should be based in part on facts and logic provided by research and reason, and in part on those abstract qualities or principle such as those that are found in care ethics.
Virtuous theorists claim that virtuous acts count as virtuous behavior. Virtuous acts are done by virtuous people who are people that achieve true happiness and genuine satisfaction. ԓVirtue promotes human flourishing (Waller, 2008, p.106).
This basically interprets to a successful life for human beings. For foster children, successful lives are hard to come by. Foster children are not always able to obtain appropriate education if frequent changes of placement occur, are they always provided the motivation to continue to go to school. Foster children also have trouble forming close relationships for fear that those people will leave as well. With these facts in mind, is it ethical (virtuous) of the birth parents to retain rights that block adoption that would provide permanence and motivation?
A flourishing life consists of happiness, joy, and pleasures. ԓVirtuous acts and virtuous characters are those that contribute to a good, healthy, flourishing life for ourselves, our families, our communities, and our species (Waller, 2008, p.106).
Within a virtuous character there needs to exist honesty, bravery, generosity, and loyalty. These characteristics lead us to enjoy loving and committed relationships. Foster children have trouble forming committed relationships because they have trouble trusting people.
Parents who have been contained in jail for long periods, or just cannot afford to take care of their children, should allow their children the chance to be adopted and find a loving, permanent, and stable home with people who will love and cherish the child. The care services that are provided do not offer a full environment like a family or a home would.
ԓAdoptive parents need to become better consumers of adoption services, including legal, counseling, and medical services (Martin, 2009). Most people want ethical behavior by the people who help form their families. Most prospective parents want and try to behave ethically, including ethical behavior as it would be defined by the virtue theorists and by Kant, themselves.
If pre-adoptive parents ask, "Isn't it like baby selling if you are only delivering a child?" and they expect ethical behavior and service, then the pressure will be provider to live up to these expectations. They will respond or lose clients (Martin, 2009).
Ethical behavioral expectations are seen even in adoption circumstances. The adoptive parents are expected to behave ethically, and the adoption agency is expected to behave ethically as well.
The long term effects of foster care on children include poorer school performance; higher rates of school dropout, public assistance, homelessness, arrest, and chemical dependency; lower marriage rates; and poorer mental and physical health (McDonald, 1996). Children who have been put into foster care usually resent people in general, and are constantly alone or ԓlone-wolves.
There are benefits to foster care, particularly if the child has a dysfunctional home that might be corrected so that the child could be returned to the birth parents. However, this is not always the case. If the elements that make the home dysfunction canԒt be resolved, dissolution of parental rights would give the child a second chance to be raised by a set of parents that have been approved and appointed by the state.
When I was adopted, I was relinquished by parents who could not afford to keep me. I was moved to different foster homes and different foster care services until I was placed with my adopted parents who were from the United States. I was born in Santiago, Chile.
My adopted parents paid for me to live with two foster mothers while they were going through the trial of the adoption process. After my adoptive parents had been approved by New York State, they came to Santiago and claimed me.
The effects that foster care had on me include trust issues, mental complications, and fear of abandonment. Some hardships that parents face when giving up their children are that they cannot afford to take care of their children. Neglect, drug abuse, child abuse, or other hardships may also cause the state to advocate and take responsibility for the children.
Poverty forces some parents to give up their children because of a lack of financial means, particularly in third world country. The parents lack the benefits that can support the children because of financial misfortune. Also, children whose parents that are deceased may be put up for adoption. All these instances show that many circumstances happen for many different reasons.
Some countries have limited resources for children in foster care. Resources such as learning materials, food, shelter, and clothing are limited in care services. Race plays a part when prospective parents are looking for children.
Parents would like to find children that are the same race as they are. It has only recently become more common than Caucasian parents are adopting children of different races. For example: When I was adopted, my adoptive parents were Caucasian, I, on the other hand, was Hispanic. Twenty years ago, it was more common for adoptive parents to adopt children their own race.
How can these issues be resolved ethically? Although, the United States is trying to advocate that children of a certain race be placed with parents of the same race, this is not always possible. The funding that is used for adoption agencies and foster care is through support groups and the government. Some support groups that are associated with adoption agencies and foster care include African Cradle, which deals with African American children in different countries and the United States, and Childrens House International.
Through these adoption and non-profit organizations, childrenҒs voices can be heard and children can have the chance to find a loving and caring family. After the children have been adopted into permanent families, they may have some difficulty with trying to find their birth parents. I know that from a personal perspective, I have been trying to find out about my birth parents since I knew that I was adopted. There are a lot of issues that come with not knowing where you are from genetically. Children can struggle with these issues as they start to develop into men and women.
When they become young adults, most adopted children then want to understand where it is that they came from. The issues regarding their adoption then seem to become a top priority. They search frantically for their birth parents, to see if there is any resemblance. When young adults start to think ethically and morally, they want to be the best person they can be. Knowing where they came from would help them to feel like they knew themselves completely.
In conclusion, ethical arguments may support one of two sides on these issues. The first position is that it is critical to the idea of family to allow parents to maintain rights even when there is only a remote chance for those parents to be able to successfully care for their children. The second side is it is ethically unfair to the child to be stuck in care services without the chance or prospect to be adopted. The arguments seem to be stronger in support of the second side. Resolution of the contemporary problem requires application of ethical principles such as those of Kant, the virtue theorists, and care ethics. Children need their voices to be heard, and they need the chance to have loving and compassionate families. If parents cannot afford or neglect the child in anyway, then they should relinquish their rights and allow the child to have a full and successful life without them. Although a child does want to know where they came from, they also need to know where they are going.
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