Care of Children Bill is ''legislative creep''
26 November 2003
Care of Children Bill is “legislative creep”
The government is using the need to help children who are the victims of family breakdown as a smokescreen for social engineering.
Maxim Institute Director Bruce Logan told the select committee hearing into the Care of Children Bill today that the bill contains example of “legislative creep”.
“The philosophy underlying the Care of the Children Bill is the same as the Families Commission Bill: that is, that there are now a ‘diversity of families’ which need to be supported, even advocated. This concept is prejudiced against marriage, and in the process the two-parent married family is reduced to the same level as any other household arrangement,” Mr Logan said.
This ignores or skews the overwhelming evidence that the two-parent married family provides benefits which no other household grouping provides. There are fundamental differences between marriage and de facto (or same-sex) relationships, and these differences matter.
It is an unsustainable fantasy for the state to think that it can spurn an institution which has been found, in one form or another, to be a necessary part of nearly every human society.
Research in New Zealand and worldwide shows clearly that on average children do best in the married family. Children in other family groups generally do not do as well according to almost any measure.
The steady break-up of the married, mother-father childrearing unit is the principle cause of declining child well-being in New Zealand. Of course, some single parents, against difficult odds, are successfully raising their children and they deserve our support. And some married couples are failing at their task.
The breakdown of family comes at a big cost to the state. CYF’s current budget is $435.3 million, with 2,149 staff. The all-up cost of the DPB amounts to around $2.3 billion. The rising welfare budget has been a major contributor to the steady rise in the ratio of our tax to GDP over the last 30 years—from 23 percent in 1970 to 35 percent in 2002.
Australian government research has found that for every dollar spent on a child brought up in a two-parent family, the government spends $10 on a child brought up in a single-parent family. It seems strange that by refusing to promote marriage as the preferred option, the New Zealand government is turning down a significant opportunity to reduce government spending.
Maxim agrees that those who are in difficult circumstances need assistance, and there is a case for both the state and the community to be involved in providing that assistance. But to advocate marriage as the preferred state will not ostracise those in de facto situations, or push them into some “abnormal” category.
By refusing to support marriage as the preferred option for raising children, the government is supporting pathology, and will entrench it.
Maxim is concerned at the lack of clear guidelines in the Bill to ensure that prior commitment to a relationship is demonstrated before a step-parent is appointed as a guardian. The legislation appears to leave open the possibility of a succession of “guardians”, which is likely to be further confusing and unsettling for the child.
The provision for someone in a relationship with a custodial parent to be appointed as guardian of a child is no doubt intended to provide a solution to the question of how to deal with family reconstitution after breakdown. However, it is also there to satisfy a desire to accommodate same-sex parents in the legislation—a specific aim of the Bill.
The Bill will make it possible for lesbian or gay biological parents to name their partner as a child's legal guardian, and provides rights and responsibilities to lesbian partners of biological mothers who have used assisted reproductive technologies.
This demonstrates the process of incremental legislative creep, whereby significant changes to the law are made in small steps over a long period of time. In this case it will be a back-door entry to adoption by homosexual couples, which is currently not permitted under the Adoption Act. The government plans to review that Act, and should have done so at the same time as the Care of Children Bill, so the two could be considered as a total package.
Maxim’s position is that by giving the right to guardianship to a person of the same sex, the child is being denied a mother or a father (as the case may be). This is against the best interests of the child, and it is wrong for the state to encourage it.
I believe the best way forward is not for the government to encourage the pathology that underlies “diversity of families”, but to help people in trouble while advocating marriage as the best environment for the child.