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Adoption as a Form of Good Artifice

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By a student from the Catholic University of America

Adoption and foster parenthood, as forms of artifice, imitate and perfect where nature is lacking in the development of children in poor family situations, allowing children to grow and thrive when they would not be able to do so with their biological families. This will be argued for through a Socratic-style dialogue that demonstrates how adoption and foster parenthood are good forms of artifice but still a lower form of intelligence than nature itself (in this case, development within the biological family).

(Going up the hill…)

Jill: So, Jack, today I found out more about my birth parents. I don’t know much about them, but I learned that I have four half-siblings who live in Tennessee.

Jack: Really? I didn’t know you were adopted. You seemed like you came from such a normal family.

Jill: What do you mean, Jack? Are you implying that adoption isn’t as good as growing up with one’s biological parents?

Jack: Well, I’ve met a lot of adopted people who seem to have issues with their identity. They question who they are, where they came from, and sometimes, I’ve even heard them talk about struggling to think of God as a personal agent because of their feelings of being “rejected” as a child by their biological parents.

Jill: I understand why you think this way, Jack. But what do you think adoption is? Do you think it is natural or artificial?

Jack: Well, I know adoption is when a couple takes a child into their home either from a private adoption agency or the foster care system, and is supposed to welcome the child into their family. That child is then legally recognized as the couple’s own child. I don’t think this is natural since it’s not how it was meant to be biologically, but I don’t understand what you mean by artificial. Can you please define your terms? 

Jill: Sure, Jack! Nature is that which is true for any being either always or for the most part. Artifice is that which simulates, imitates, or perfects where nature is lacking.

Jack: Why do you say that nature is that which is true either always or for the most part? Why can you not simply define nature as that which is always true?

Jill: God is the only being that has a nature consisting of that which is always true because He is pure act, and not subject to potency. Being metaphysical, God is not subject to change as He is outside of time, and is therefore, immutable and eternal, making that which is true for His nature always true.

Jack: Okay, so that which belongs to God’s nature is always true, but the nature of all other beings is that which is true either always or for the most part?

Jill: Correct, the nature for all other beings is defined as that which occurs either always for the most part as they are subject to potency. And chance, which is of lesser intelligence to nature, being the exception to it, still acts in accord with nature.

Jack: Well, adoption is not normal for most families. Either always or for the most part, a couple conceives a child through sexual relations within the confines of a union between the man and woman. So if conceiving a child biologically is the natural way to have a child, adoption couldn’t be natural, and must logically be artificial. 

Jill: That’s right, Jack! While my birth parents conceived me naturally, since they were teenagers and not married with a stable income, they didn’t have the means to provide for me financially and give me the childhood I deserved so that I could thrive. This situation wouldn’t have been optimal for my growth and development as my biological parents lacked the resources and stability to provide for me.

Jack: So nature was lacking for your situation, and since your own parents didn’t have any children yet and had stable jobs and resources, they were the better option to raise you?

Jill: Yes, so adoption when done properly and for the right intentions isn’t necessarily less good than being raised in one’s biological family. However, it is less intelligent than being raised by one’s biological parents.

Jack: If adoption isn’t necessarily less good than being in one’s biological family, how could it then be less intelligent?

Jill: Good question, Jack! Good artifice is still intelligent because it acts in accordance with the good, the proper end of nature, but lesser in intelligence because it is lower in being than the essence of the natural family, that which is true for the composition of the family either always or for the most part.

Jack: Okay, so adoption when aligned with the proper end of the family is intelligent, but less intelligent than nature, because it is the exception to it?

Jill: Yes, that’s right!

Jack: I think I understand. You spoke to and helped clarify how adoption serves as a form of good artifice, specifically in your circumstance of having been adopted through a private adoption agency as an infant. Youth that are placed in the foster care system are unable to be cared for by their families typically because of abuse, drugs or health issues on the part of their biological parents. However, I have heard of the statistics that show that the foster care system often fails youth with many facing homelessness once they age out of the system. How could you justify foster parenting as an example of good artifice then knowing that it often doesn’t allow children in its care to thrive as they ought?

Jill: I agree with you that it is easy to see how adoption outside of the foster care system in which a child is adopted into a stable family at infancy simulates and perfects where nature is lacking, while the foster care system is much more difficult to justify as a form of good artifice. I would argue that when children are adopted permanently by their foster parents into a stable family with a mother and father that foster parenthood is a good form of artifice. However, when the foster care system moves the child from foster home to foster home it fails to imitate the permanency of resources and parenting style seen in natural families.

Jack: You seem to be implying in your explanation that both a mother and a father who give stability in their parenting and resources to the child are necessary for adoption or a long-term foster placement to be a form of good artifice. There are plenty of single women, single men, and homosexual couples who would love to be a foster placement for a child or to permanently adopt the child into their family. Do you think that adoption or long-term foster placement by these subsets of the population is not a good form of artifice even though they are willing to open their homes and hearts to these children?

Jill: Well, a family by nature is composed of a mother and father in which the mother provides nurturing care for the child and the father protects and provides, giving the resources necessary for the child to thrive in their environment. In fact, both a man and a woman are necessary to conceive a child. Therefore, a same-sex couple adopting a child fails to imitate or simulate the natural family in which both a man and a woman are relatively necessary for procreation.

Jack: So, if these family structures fail to imitate or simulate the natural family as adoptive parents, and you have shown me why they cannot be forms of good artifice, how can they be classified as bad artifice if the intention is still there for their act to be directed to the good?

Jill: Even if the intention is still there to provide for the child, by nature, both a man and a woman, a mother and a father, are required for the development of a child. Just as man, either always or for the part, acts as a rational corporeal being, and bees, either always or for the most part, pollinate flowers, so too is a family, either always or for the most part, composed of a mother and a father and any resulting children.

Jack: Oh, so you are saying that adoption by same-sex couples or single parents does not achieve the proper end, or telos, of the family, and ultimately, detracts from nature, making it a bad form of artifice. 

Jill: Exactly! 

Jack: So what does that mean in regard to the intelligibility of adoption by same-sex or single parents?

Jill: Well, if adoption in this scenario does not act in accord with the good, the proper end of the nature of the family, could you really say it is still intelligent?

Jack: I guess not.

Jill: Right, so not only is it an exception to nature, but since it also detracts from nature and does not act in accord with it, it is an unintelligent and bad form of artifice.

Jack: Okay, so adoption by heterosexual families that provides stability and nurturance to the children welcomed into their homes whether through private adoption agencies or long-term foster care placement that achieves the same effects of permanency and nurturance in a stable, heterosexual family are intelligent, good forms of artifice.

Jill: Yes, and transiency in foster care placement and adoption by single parents or homosexual couples are unintelligent, bad forms of artifice.

Jack: Well, Jill, I think this calls for a reform of the foster care system and the prerequisites for being allowed to adopt so that children can be given the opportunity to be raised in the families that fulfill the proper end of the family by nature, namely, the raising of children by a mother and father so that the child might thrive.

Jill: That sounds great, Jack!

Jack: Thanks, Jill! I believe these reforms could potentially make a lot of change! After all, adoption as an intelligent, good form of artifice gives children the potential to thrive developmentally when not able to develop within the biological family.

*For the sake of clarity in this dialogue, God was referred to as He to reflect our society’s typical way of speaking about God, and also to make a distinction between the other terms discussed in that particular sentence.

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