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Passage of the Childhood Ownership Act of 20X8

Bob has finally made it to a position of power as a rich white male in the First World after hundreds of lives as a powerless child. He has used his power and wealth to be a powerful and tenacious advocate for the proper treatment of children. After decades of advocacy involving the unification of many child welfare NGOs, Bob has gotten the Child Self-Ownership Act of 20X8 passed in the United States and (what's left) of the European Union.

The principle provisions of the act are:

  • Require that, before any infant is allowed to leave the hospital, the parents must complete a child safety and developmental psychology course. The parents may leave the hospital at any time after the mother has sufficiently recuperated. This course may be completed before delivery so that the baby can leave the hospital with the parents in the usual way. Thus, parents who are prepared and want a child may get ready beforehand.
  • Taking the education course shall place no undue burden on the parents. If the yearly audit shows that it does place an undue burden on parents, then corrections to the program shall be made the following year.
  • A childhood development section shall be added to the State's high school education and will be a graduation requirement. There may be no waiver for this class as there is for sexual education.
  • Parents who don't complete the course beforehand will have two months to take it afterwards. The baby is still theirs just not living with them. If they don't complete the course in the required time frame, then custody of the child reverts to the State and the child is placed in protective custody. For a period of three months after the baby becomes a ward of the State, the parent(s) may appeal by taking the course and showing why they didn't take it earlier. A judge will decide whether the baby should remain a ward or be restored to their parents.
  • Special facilities shall be built to house those infants who are not claimed.
  • Funding for the course and facilities shall be provided for in the budget. (This is not an unfunded initiative.)
  • The course is offered free. For those who cannot afford to take the time off to complete the course, the State will pay them a stipend per day to take the course. This should equalize the field somewhat between the well-off and the poor. No one should be denied their children because they are too poor to take time off.
  • The course shall be available at every hospital in the State.
  • The course shall cover known best practices and common malpractices in raising children.
  • The State may not hold any infant past 8 months of age. The longer babies wait in State custody, the worse it is for them and the greater the burden for the state.
  • The adoption process shall be considerably streamlined to facilitate these babies getting into real homes/families. Emphasis shall be placed on speedy background checks of prospective families.
  • The content in the childhood development course shall be sourced only from reputable journals of peer-reviewed articles/studies. The source journals must be three years old at the time of the passage of this statute. Curriculum shall be developed only by licensed and practicing psychiatrists, psychologists and medical doctors.
  • There are no restrictions on who may have children or when they have children or how many. (Trying to regulate who can have sex with who is a futile endeavor. Don't even try.)
  • The entire adoption and education process shall be audited every year.
  • The results of the adoption and education process audit shall be publicly published within three months of the end of the year.
  • Failure to produce the audit results shall be cause for termination of employment for the senior officer(s) in charge of the audit.
  • The law must be renewed every 5 years or it will go out of effect.
  • The law makes no statement for or against abortion.

Known Problems:

  • What happens to people who are just passing through the state and have their baby here? Are they required to take the course too in order to leave the hospital?

Would this law be sufficient to improve the lives of children? What complications could arise? How might the law be circumvented, cheated or corrupted to make children's lives worse? The law assumes that most parents would do better if they knew better. This law aims to give them a very strong incentive to learn.

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    $\begingroup$ course material to come from established peer-reviewed journals and by practicing professionals great. Now if you can do the same for school textbook selection committee... $\endgroup$ – JDługosz Sep 10 '15 at 21:37
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    $\begingroup$ After you receive answers on this (and it looks like you have good ones), I'd like to recommend a challenge for you: see if you can make it better by taking rules out, rather than adding more rules. There's value in life to both approaches, but I have a sneaking feeling this could be an excellent candidate for exploring the former approach. I noted Monica Cellio's comment in her answer, "most parents want to do a good job," as particularly insightful. You may be able to rely on that instead of legislation on a few points to make it more affordable to implement without sacrificing quality. $\endgroup$ – Cort Ammon Sep 10 '15 at 22:27
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    $\begingroup$ If the states really care about the well being of children. They would let the kid in the parents care right away. Breastfeeding, and lot of body to body contact is the best way to reduce cortisol and improve brain development. $\endgroup$ – the_lotus Sep 11 '15 at 11:20
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    $\begingroup$ Umm. "(Trying to regulate who can have sex with who is a futile endeavor. Don't even try.)" So sexual abuse of children by parents and foster parents ceases to be an offense. And this is good for kids how? $\endgroup$ – WhatRoughBeast Sep 12 '15 at 16:44
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    $\begingroup$ @WhatRoughBeast: I think the questioner means mutually consensual sex, which (at the very least so far as the law is concerned) is in any case not possible between a child and its legal guardian. I believe that sentence is provided by the questioner as a sketch of the motivation for not acting to prevent "unworthy" parents producing children in the first place, it's not intended as a precise legal principle by which rape would cease to be a criminal offence. $\endgroup$ – Steve Jessop Sep 13 '15 at 10:03

11 Answers 11

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Would this law be sufficient to improve the lives of children?

Not sufficient, but helpful.

First, there is a lot of mandatory education out there that seems to have mixed results. People have to pass a driving test, yet there are lots of reckless drivers. Sufficiently-reckless drivers may have to take another "no really, we mean it" class before getting their licenses back, but that doesn't guarantee that they'll be safe drivers forevermore.

Anecdotally (that's code for "I have no data"; sorry), it appears that the more people view something as a "right", the more likely they are to resist or outright undermine any obstacles put in their way. You have to pass the bar to practice law? Sure, that makes sense. You have to complete a test to take your kid home? Outrage! Bob will be contending with that problem for a long, long time.

However, parenting education will help some. There are people who want to be good parents but never learned how, and you probably can't pop over to your community college to take a class on it. And I've never heard of such classes in high schools. So there is a segment of the population who will be helped by the mere availability of such a class.

What complications could arise? How might the law be circumvented, cheated or corrupted to make children's lives worse?

You know the parents whose hostility to their kids sometimes takes the form of "I slaved away / gave up a plum job / worked three jobs and ate rice and beans / etc to raise you and this is how you treat me?!"? For some of them this class will be like that, so expect some kids to hear about it.

How could people cheat? That depends; your law doesn't actually specify that they have to pass an exam, just show up, so some could tune out. If you have an exam, assume that any methods used by students to cheat on school exams could also be applied here.

Resistance to the class isn't limited to those who will be terrible parents. Some parents will do fine even though they cheated their way through the class. Some will then use that as ammo to argue against the need for the law.

I know you're trying to dismiss the financial aspect, but that money has to come from somewhere. Expect some resentment from those whose taxes are raised or budgets cut in order to provide this. Some will be swayed by the public-good argument (as with school taxes); others will not. Those with political power might act against the law; if they can't get the law revoked directly they'll cut the program's funding. Look to modern US social-welfare programs for examples of such political maneuvering.

The law assumes that most parents would do better if they knew better. This law aims to give them a very strong incentive to learn.

Most parents probably do want to do a good job. Some don't care and we've discussed that. Bob also needs to consider the ones who'd rather punt on parenting than go through this. Not all children are planned; those who are planned but turn out to have problems can become unwanted at or soon after birth. This program makes it very easy for parents to abandon such children -- which isn't necessarily a problem, but it is a consequence. If the state can place those children quickly, rather than letting the kids linger in state care for years before being released for adoption, the class could provide a socially-acceptable way of dumping a newborn: "well we wanted to have a child, but that nasty state stepped in and...". That might be an easier claim to make than "didn't want to keep it".


So, what else might Bob consider?

  • Distributing this education throughout the whole public-education program. Some ideas can be planted as early as elementary school; they can be built on in middle school and high school and then in college. Think of it as an ongoing subject, like math, rather than a one-time thing, like driver's ed or sex ed.

  • Developing a mentorship program. Not every set of parents can in turn rely on their parents; whom do they call for help, for everything from "how do we solve this acute problem" to "are we doing it right"?

  • Facilitate group/co-housing/"it takes a village" configurations of adults and children. I once visited a community where all the children stay in the "children's house" with plenty of (mixed) adult supervision, but they spend time with their families too. This gets more of the community involved, with adds both breadth and earlier detection of problems. Bob shouldn't impose this sort of thing (you think they resented a mere class?), but where adults are inclined to form such communities, the state should (a) not hinder them and (b) consider incentives.

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    $\begingroup$ About the outrage at introducing the exams, a prior measure could make it voluntary in order to get some tuition for raising your kids. Once people become used to taking an exam to show that they are good parents, the following steps would be easier. $\endgroup$ – SJuan76 Sep 12 '15 at 16:20
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One way to get round the law as written: Home birth.

In 2012, out-of-hospital births comprised 3%–6% of births in 
Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Pennsylvania, and Washington

- http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/databriefs/db144.htm

The above question is based on the assumption that some specific subset of humans are incompetent to make decisions regarding children. Your solution is to move these decision to some specific subset of humans.

This might very well backfire, too - what is being taught at this class? Religious values? That might sound great, until you find out that the religion being taught is (insert religion you don't like here). Adherence to government values?

Remember that anyone who objects to these teachings is going to be denied access to their children. Not just now, but in 100 years, when different people have been in power.

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  • $\begingroup$ this could even increase infant mortality as more people have children without medical support to get around the law. $\endgroup$ – John Dec 27 '17 at 3:31
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Short of the great potential for a bureaucratic nightmare, this seems like a good plan to me.

The tough part of this plan would be getting it passed. When you start talking about interfering in families like this many people will fight it.

But given that you get the law in place your plan appears pretty solid though obviously there are concerns (as with any plan)

Concerns:

  • Cost. This will be crazy expensive, worthwhile but expensive.
  • Enforcement. There were 3,932,181 births in the US in 2013...that's a lot of personnel needed to enforce the rules.
  • Annual audits are incredibly labor intensive and in some cases do not give you the time/data to properly evaluate something's efficacy. I would space it out more. Maybe every three years.

Bonus points for:

  • Streamlining adoption is a huge deal to make this work, good addition.
  • Childhood development section shall be added to the State's high school education

Things I would consider adding:

  • Couple this program with prevention methods as well, contraceptives, condoms etc
  • Education programs for parents to support the children. Its one thing to know what you need to do to take care of a child, being able to actually do it is something else entirely. I am talking about employment education mostly here. If you know what nutrients your kid needs but can't afford them...well...problem.
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  • $\begingroup$ I built the plan in such a way that it shouldn't be a big deal for parents who want to be parents to get a good start on how to be parents. Not taking the class is a nice way for a parent who does not want to be one to avoid the burden of parenthood. I'm of the opinion that if you don't want to be a parent, then don't be one. There are plenty of people who do want to be parents but can't and would to love to raise someone else's unwanted child. $\endgroup$ – Green Sep 10 '15 at 21:17
  • $\begingroup$ Thus, it was a way for bad parents to recuse themselves early without having to go through the drama and damaged children of Child Protection Services several years later. Children avoid the trauma and parents avoid the humiliation of losing their child because they were bad parents. $\endgroup$ – Green Sep 10 '15 at 21:17
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No, it will not improve the lives of children.

After I was able to convince myself that this was not some cynical work of satire, I could appreciate the irony of the title, "self-ownership act," as this work already presumes both parent and child are property of the state. I suppose when you see the state as an extension of yourself, the next goal is to steal for yourself everything you can, including others' children.

It is sad that so many have such a poor view of their fellow humans, that they can be entertained by imagining new ways to imprison themselves by a fantasy bureaucracy. After thousands of years of oppression, you really can't wait to climb back into your shackles, can you?

The State cannot save you, and it cannot save the children. Only a free society can do that. This act is not progress, it is regress.

Cultivate the courage to seek liberty.

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    $\begingroup$ Jet welcome to the site. Your answer doesn't really answer the question beyond saying no. Please explain why as opposed to providing an opinion. Many cultures have societies that are not 'free' and yet children can be raised well in them. $\endgroup$ – James Sep 11 '15 at 2:43
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    $\begingroup$ Thank you for welcoming me. The entire premise of this "self-ownership" proposal is based on state ownership of individuals. Naturally, some children who are taught this will accept it without question. Apparently, some believe it even without forced indoctrination. An entire population raised on the assumption of state ownership of individuals is susceptible to the exploitation common to almost all societies since the dawn of civilization, due to a lack of civil liberties. This is why it is regressive. Is slavery good? Whether by state or by master, a simple "no" will suffice. $\endgroup$ – Jet Khan Sep 11 '15 at 4:47
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    $\begingroup$ While I like your conclusion, your answer seems to be too much of a political statement and too little of answering the actual question. If you could extend your answer with respect to the question (and the subquestions therein), you can get many more upvotes. $\endgroup$ – TheEspinosa Sep 11 '15 at 11:05
  • $\begingroup$ "The State cannot save you, and it cannot save the children" is clearly and obviously wrong; many policies implemented by governments have lead to expansion of life expectancy and reduction of infant mortality, thereby both saving individuals and children. It's just not necessarily true that the state can save one or ones children, not that it is necessarily true that the state cannot. $\endgroup$ – Alice Sep 12 '15 at 18:04
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    $\begingroup$ Are you driving tests equally regressive, or are you more sanguine about the state interfering in people's ownership of their cars than you are in their ownership of other people? ;-) Personally I think it was a mistake for the questioner to introduce ownership to the question. The state is regulating behaviour, but the issue of whether regulating behaviour is by definition asserting ownership of the person regulated is in no way specific to this subject (and so this law makes no difference). The state doesn't construe the relationship between child and parent as a property right anyway. $\endgroup$ – Steve Jessop Sep 12 '15 at 19:28
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"Would this law be sufficient to improve the lives of children?" No. As intimated by Jet Khan earlier, It seems the majority of those discussing your question have all assumed that the responsibility of insuring a healthy childhood lies with the state. If you start with a very different assumption, namely that "government is at best a necessary evil, and at worst an intolerable one"~(Paine), than you come to a very different conclusion.

This fictional Childhood ownership act and the others like it begin with good intentions in response to evident problems. However, they are at best surface repairs which leave the root of the problem unsolved-- in this instance, family dysfunction. It is hoped that by educating parents, they will be better parents, e.g. that education is the solution or the vehicle for the solution. This misses the true basis for a sound family: self-denial and unconditional love. Virtues like these are ideals which the best of us rarely experience, and they cannot be gained through education or enforced by an act of congress.

Beyond It's inability to address the root problem, This act suffers from three major pitfalls: The act enforces a process and standard intended to fix the dysfunctional families, which means good families must suffer the same treatment. In addition, taxes must be raised to pay for the facilities, systems, and bureaucratic overhead of such an endeavor. Finally, and worst of all, it is inevitable that the whichever group which holds political sway will pervert this act to further their own ideology.

The alternative, to leave individuals to raise families as they see fit, is fraught with danger-- they may choose to live selfishly and wreck the lives of their children, as many do. Humans are morally bankrupt, as a general rule of thumb, and we have thousands of years of history to prove this axiom. However broken individuals are when left to themselves, it is silly to think that a great number of similarly pathetic humans could fix their dysfunctional condition by agreeing to adhere to a law, proposed, seconded, and passed by mere men. The simple fact of the matter is that real, lasting solutions cannot come from the top-down( government regulation and etc. ). They must come from the bottom-up, from within.

Ultimately, the only hope for the betterment of mankind comes from obedience not to the laws of kings and congresses, but from obedience to eternal, spiritual laws. There simply is no reason to "love thy neighbor as thyself", the foundation of a great society, unless there is a God who defines and enforces such a golden rule, and unless you believe in that God. All other attempts at morality are doomed to failure, because they lack the basis for any such morality.

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I think this - "The course shall not make any assertions about the right way to raise a child, only the consequences of doing it wrong." - is the flaw.

Most countries put new drivers through a training course and test before allowing them to drive on their own. How successful would these courses be if they only trained people on the consequences of doing it wrong?

For example, if the instructor merely tells you that the consequence of a mistimed overtaking maneuver is a head-on collision, how many people would learn the correct way by trail and error? How many would just avoid overtaking?

I don't see how this could work (or parents be tested on their understanding) without giving them some positive guidance on what the correct way is.

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  • $\begingroup$ That is a very good point. I'll edit the answer to talk about best practices instead of just bad practices to avoid. $\endgroup$ – Green Sep 10 '15 at 21:08
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Since this is unlikely to worsen the lives of children I think it is safe to say that yes, this action will improve them. However, I suspect you’re unlikely to see a significant benefit, let alone one that warrants the cost and constitutional disputes.

Ultimately, what you’re doing is forcing parents to take and pass a sort of written driving test. They are required to take it and (hopefully) pass it in order to be given charge of a child. Unfortunately, this test is even less stringent than a driving test because there are no rules (other than existing mistreatment laws) taught that can be enforced. All a parent needs to do is memorize material and regurgitate without any incentive to retain it.

To once again look at driving as an example, consider those on the road in the United States. Even with clear laws dictating the rules and copious numbers of officers out enforcing them, there are still many dangerous and incompetent people on the road. Even among well-meaning drivers, mistakes (with life-altering consequences) can still be made.

Raising a child is also considered a very personal experience by many. Teaching information from the best academic sources is a good start, but there is also enormous distrust surrounding academics in some political and socio-economic circles. Some people will never like being told what is best for their children. This adds a barrier to the effectiveness of any material taught, especially since the children of these parents might benefit significantly from this education.

Good parenting requires a desire to learn from your childhood and your parents’ mistakes as well as a profound understanding that your child now comes before yourself. These are things that take a committed effort and cannot easily be taught. As a result, poor parenting is always going to be impactful on society.

There is a ray of hope, though. There will certainly be parents who will learn from this kind of education whether they intend to or not. If a parent chooses to ignore the lessons, their child is no worse off than had they not taken the course. But somewhere out there, at least a few children will experience better lives.

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  • $\begingroup$ True, there is a high likelihood that this course would create another class of science deniers alongside the anti-vaxxers, anti-GMO and climate change deniers. These people are impervious to reason so I don't expect to make much inroads with them. I'm optimistic that there are many parents who want to be the best parents they can be but just don't know how because their parents were awful. $\endgroup$ – Green Sep 10 '15 at 21:31
  • $\begingroup$ I'm not counting on perfect retention, just exposure to it to give parents the hint that there is a better way than beating your child or screaming at them to get them to behave. $\endgroup$ – Green Sep 10 '15 at 21:32
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    $\begingroup$ @Green Yes, that is a good point. That makes me wonder though… would that encourage more people to withdraw their children from public education? It’s possible, particularly in Europe where public schooling is typically better, that this could lead to worse lives for some of those children. $\endgroup$ – Avernium Sep 10 '15 at 21:41
  • $\begingroup$ What constitutional disputes were you thinking of? $\endgroup$ – Green Sep 10 '15 at 22:19
  • $\begingroup$ @Green: I'm no constitutional lawyer, but in the US I don't think that refusing to take a test could easily be construed as sufficient grounds for the state to take custody of a child in the way that, say, proving child abuse by the parent, or a speculated but imminent specific danger to the child, is. It's maybe 14th amendment, in the same way that Roe vs. Wade determined on the 14th amendment that due process must establish (and had failed to establish) a legitimate state interest in outright banning of abortion? $\endgroup$ – Steve Jessop Sep 12 '15 at 19:33
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Long answer - my favourite part in the last paragraph

To develop a parenting course that will actually help people, then teach it to every member of the population, will require a huge number of teachers, as well as overheads for training the teachers, selecting the teachers, ensuring quality control on the classes, validating the curriculum, updating the curriculum as people get foreknowledge of the tricks used so they stop being as effective, etc. You will need some form of monitoring, to ensure the teachers are actually teaching the material, instead of doing the work for their stuents for money. Some kind of computerised multiple-choicce questions on a hack-proofed (and continuously improved) terminal would probably be appropriate (multiple choice questions are surprisingly versatile - don't dismiss them 'til you try them). All these teachers will have to be enthusiastic workers, and that will remove a lot of enthusiastic workers from the rest of the economy.

Also, depending on the length of the course, you can't just compensate people for lost hours. Their employers will need to find replacements in their absence. You may be able to mitigate this cost by making the training part-time over a period of months. But it may still affect an employer's hiring decision for newly-married applicants, depending on the length of training.

Also, creating a state-sponsored adoption program will almost certainly lead to an excess of orphans over adopters. The law won't change the number of people who want to adopt, but it likely will greatly increase the number of children offered for adoption, since it would become easier to get rid of unwanted babies (credit Monica Cellio)

On the other hand, the state can't just "not hold any child beyond 8 years of age". They can't turn kids out onto the street. The state will likely have to incentivise adopting, somehow, and that will lead to lower quality adopotive parents who are only there for the incentives.

There may also be a stigma attached to growing up as an orphan, no matter the length of time spentt in state care. Children might be bullied and/or sufffer serious self-doubt over their parents not caring enough about them to study for a free test. These children would also know they had heightened odds of coming from parents who went down the "I didn't want to give him up, but" route, or even the "I had no choice, so I didn't take the test" route. This would make them feel worse about their origins.

As an alternative law which would be easier to implement, without the associated costs to the children of widespread orphanhood, what if the state imposed a tax on people who don't take the test? The tax could increase over time the longer the parents don't take it.

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Consider that a recent Nature review of psychology results couldn't reproduce half of the results. So are "best practices" really scientific?

Are the results that the researchers have decreed worthy universally held? This is not a trivial point, as you are implicitly imposing a value system. I.e. in classical Catholicism the value of modesty are very highly regarded. One could argue that modern western society actively discourages modesty.

To me it seems, you're flirting with building a "Brave New World" like dystopia.

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    $\begingroup$ Actually, it makes a very astute observation. If 'best practices' are effectively 50/50, then there's no way to project if this law would improve children's lives. (and that's ignoring that 'improve' is also a very subjective term) $\endgroup$ – GrandmasterB Sep 11 '15 at 21:05
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I agree that in general, parental education, psychological improvement, and children's rights can be good things and if improved, could make life better for children, and for everyone (or most) overall.

One major problem I see is the potential for the child to be apart from its parents for (up to) the first two months of its life, if the parents don't do their coursework. That period is one of the most important developmentally for a child - the parents, particularly the mother, should be with the child for that period. If it's about the child's rights, then the child wants/needs its parents, and the mother should be required to be with the child. That need should be part of the course. If the mother hears that her child needs to bond physically and emotionally with her during that time, or may die or have a future life unable to connect with other humans, and yet she still wants to leave her baby behind in the hospital, then you're probably better off revoking that mother's parental status and assigning a new mother immediately.

Special facilities shall be built to house those infants that are not claimed.

No! Instead, have a waiting list of well-educated healthy women who want to adopt infants. The women near the top of the list go on standby. Assign the children of unfit mothers to them immediately, so the child can bond with the new mother.

Jet Khan's answer also brought up some valid issues with the mindset of the law.

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Would this law be sufficient to improve the lives of children?

The biggest debate would center around this question. On one hand, delivering critical information to parents on best practices in terms of nutrition for mother and child, or healthy psychological and emotional development can be very beneficial if the parents are open to receiving it. In fact, alot of organizations around the world work hard to deliver this message to new parents with some success.

However, why would a mandatory course be necessary? Why not just a free DVD handed out at the hospitals as part of a Maternity Package which includes some of the material items required to support healthy child development? Are we assuming new parents would be inherently resistant to receiving information that we must threaten to take custody of the child if they don't sit through an in-person lecture? What problem is a society really trying to solve with a law like this?

Without trying it and evaluating the data, there isn't really a way to say objectively if it would be enough to "improve the lives of children", but alot would have to go into defining what exactly we mean by that in order for such an evaluation to take place. In what ways do children's lives currently need improving? What are the reasons for the deficiencies that we are attempting to improve? How much do we measure the improvement? How much improvement would we expect to see from the implementation of this law? Without being very specific here, it is impossible to give a good answer to this question.

What complications could arise?

Well, you are systematically taking children away from their mothers, at least in some cases, so there would likely be some severe political backlash to that alone.

In terms of implementation, as mentioned, cost and practicality come into play. What happens when the flow of infants to adoptive families slows down? Suppose something changes in the equation and suddenly you have a backlog of babies? Where do they go after two months?

Also, institutionalizing infants for any reason is a really terrible idea, especially in the first two months. The benefits of breast-milk from the infant's own mother are widely understood, as is the daily nurturing that only a parent can provide. Alot of long-term damage will be done to each child forced to live in the hospital, where the child would certainly receive less attention in a ward full of infants waiting for their parents' paperwork to clear, than they would in their homes.

Cultural biases would also probably come into play at some point with regard to the classes being taught. Who gets to write the educational material? Who gets to deliver it? It's not a simple as handing out a list of do's and dont's to parents. It all has to be contextualized to the audience if it is going to be retained and implemented.

These are just a few thought-provoking ones. A comprehensive list of potential complications would be very long.

How might the law be circumvented, cheated or corrupted to make children's lives worse?

Let's not assume it has to be circumvented to make children's lives worse. There are alot of practices that may be very beneficial to specific children in specific parental/cultural contexts, but aren't understood or backed by academic research. Many of these could be lost if you 'program' parents to behave in a certain way that doesn't defer to the wisdom and learning of the generations before them.

That said, I've never seen a law that could not be somehow abused or circumvented. Legal systems are always prone to this. It all depends on the lettering of the law and the social/financial resources available to those who would want to get around it.

It could also be easily corrupted by whoever is charge of both implementation and execution. The state is seizing quite a bit of power simply to implement this law, so certainly there could be all sorts of nefarious outcomes if ill-minded people gain control of these legal levers.

The law assumes that most parents would do better if they knew better. This law aims to give them a very strong incentive to learn.

According to the U.N. Convention of the Rights of the Child:

  1. States Parties shall ensure that a child shall not be separated from his or her parents against their will, except when competent authorities subject to judicial review determine, in accordance with applicable law and procedures, that such separation is necessary for the best interests of the child. Such determination may be necessary in a particular case such as one involving abuse or neglect of the child by the parents, or one where the parents are living separately and a decision must be made as to the child's place of residence.

A law that, by default, removes a child from the custody of their parents without any individual case evaluation goes far beyond incentivizing a desired behavior. It crosses many well-established ethical lines. It starts with the assumption that all parents are "bad parents" if they haven't taken the course, and makes them 'earn' the right to care for their child. This is not at all consistent with the way we understand human rights.

Human beings have been raising children for a long, long time. Most parents are completely capable of doing a fine job of this. Unless this is a society that has undergone some sort of catastrophic pandemic parenting-failure scenario that could be altered with the implementation of a single parenting course, requiring all parents to go through this course would likely be a huge waste of resources, as opposed to designing effective interventions targeted at individually identified and defined social problems. Finding ways to support struggling parents would be a lot more cost-effective than implementing some sort of mass infant-trafficking network.

However, this doesn't mean that a nation would not give it a shot. It probably wouldn't fly in a democratic nation, but it is conceivable that a totalitarian state might try something like it, especially if it had some motivation to take direct ownership of its children, say to indoctrinate them or to build an army, or to host perfectly executed adorable hoe-downs.

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