From a purely pragmatic viewpoint a “successful” life for a sexually reproducing creature is merely having more than two offspring survive to reproductive age. From this same vantage an “unsuccessful” life is simply having one or fewer offspring survive to reproductive age. Consider the many species of cuckoo birds who are “brood parasites,” laying their eggs in a different bird species’ nest. The cuckoo hatchlings push the other eggs out of the nest before they hatch and are raised by “foster parents” of a different species. The cuckoo bird parent is a biological success without have to undergo the troubles (or, admittedly, the joys) of parenting.
The cuckoo birds’ reproductive strategy seems to be employed by an increasingly large segment of our population. Few of my professional colleagues have more than two children (it’s rare to find any professional colleagues with more than four), yet often we are court appointed to represent unfit parents who have three or more offspring, none of whom they are raising. I’ve represented parents with up to eight offspring in DSS court appointed cases. Many of these parents have conceived children with multiple partners and often they have multiple DSS cases. Some of these parents are in their late teens or early twenties and they’re already on child two or three. Sometimes they even become pregnant after their children are removed from their custody.
Meanwhile the state devotes tremendous resources to these families. Often the children have physical, mental or psychological disabilities and the government–rightly–devotes resources to ameliorating the effects of these disabilities. Government resources are devoted to social services designed to enable these parents to become “better,” or at least functioning, parents. Government resources fund the foster care to raise these children when parents and family cannot or will not. Court time, judge time and attorney time is devoted to fixing these systemic family problems–all of which costs money.
I am a social liberal but I find it amazing that the state and our culture does so little to counter this cuckoo approach to progeny. Those who pay taxes are supporting the extremely poor parenting decisions of those repeat guests of our abuse and neglect system. Collectively our society has become the rival bird species too oblivious to its own needs to stop raising other’s progeny. I often look at my court-appointed DSS clients–who may be the parent of multiple children while devoting little financial, emotional or physical effort to raising those children–and think that maybe they are the smart ones and perhaps we’re the ones being taken.