Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Doctor of Philosophy




McLeod, Carolyn


Around the world, millions of children are in need of parental care. In response to this global crisis, some philosophers defend a moral duty for prospective parents to adopt children rather than procreate. Challenges to the duty focus almost exclusively on parents’ desires to have biological children. However, reasons deriving primarily from one’s membership in a social group that favour procreation over adoption or oppose transracial adoptions are largely overlooked. In this dissertation, I examine whether group-based reasons could justifiably override a duty to adopt for prospective parents who are members of racially oppressed groups. I ultimately argue that group-based interests cannot outweigh the needs of existing children for parental care, and thus provide further support for the duty to adopt.

My thesis is divided into four chapters. In Chapter 1, I introduce a duty to adopt and argue that it is resilient against a series of proposed defeating conditions and foundational challenges. In Chapter 2, I develop three group-based reasons in favour of procreation that challenge the duty: reparative justice, racial solidarity, and cultural preservation. In Chapter 3, I argue that these reasons do not definitively support procreation over adoption and, instead, seem to favour adopting children either within or outside one’s racial group. I then identify remaining challenges to the duty that take issue with transracial adoptions and place a high value on children’s belonging in same-race families or in their communities of origin. In Chapter 4, I argue that the needs of individual children to receive timely parental care should not be compromised by groups’ interests and that children’s relationships with their communities of origin can be maintained in transracial or extra-communal adoptive placements.