Children’s Rights Movements
Children’s rights movements refer to associations that seek to champion the rights of children across the globe. The organizations comprise government institutions, academics, advocacy groups, judges, legislators and attorneys. According to Archard (2015, p. 38), the children’s rights movements have been in existence for over a century. The movements recognize any person who is below eighteen years as a child. The children’s right movements have been at the forefront in the fight against child labor and other forms of exploitation meted on children. In the United States, the children’s rights movements have been in existence since early 19th century (Archard, 2015, p. 41). The movements are organized as non-profit organizations and are founded on the ideology that children are vulnerable and require protection. Despite the presence of children’s rights movements in the United States, cases of child abuse continue to be reported. One may wonder if the movements have failed in their duties or the society is ignorant of their presence. Cases of child labor and sexual harassment are still prevalent particularly among the minority groups. Besides, some children still do not have access to quality healthcare and education. This article will give a brief description of the children’s rights movements. The paper argues that despite the movement making significant strides it is yet to realize its primary goal of curbing child exploitation and ensuring quality health care and education.
Cmiel (2004, p. 119) maintains that the earliest children’s rights movements were established in 1875. The first movement was known as the New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. The movement was founded on the realization that children were vulnerable to exploitation due to lack of organizations that protected them. Before the establishment of the movement, the society relied on the prosecution to protect children. Many incidents of child abuse went unnoticed. The rescue of a nine-year-old girl in 1874 marked the origin of children’s rights movements. The girl lived with guardians who regularly tortured her. A religious missionary learned of the girl’s ordeal and sought to rescue her. The preacher asked for assistance from the police, but they were unwilling to help (Myers, 2008, p. 451).
The missionary approached numerous charitable organizations, but they could not assist since they were not allowed to get involved in family issues. The challenges faced in the attempt to rescue the girl were what gave birth to the first children’s rights movement in the New York State. Other states learned about the establishment of the movement and by 1922, there were over 300 children’s rights movements in the United States. The main problem was that the movements were concentrated in the main towns (Hawes, 2004, p. 124). Therefore, it was hard to assist children who resided in rural areas.
The first children’s rights movements were nongovernmental. In the middle twentieth century, people demanded the establishment of governmental institutions. The need for the establishment of national organizations came at the time when the American government was creating state-level departments to provide social services. In 1912, the government established the Children’s Bureau. The economic recession witnessed in the 1930s led to the closure of many nongovernmental children’s rights movements (Myers, 2008, p. 456). Later, the rise in the cases of child abuse led to the desire to revive the movements. Doctors, as well as the media, played a significant role during this era. The media published numerous cases of child abuse prompting the Congress to enact laws to protect children. Currently, various movements protect children against all forms of abuse. Nevertheless, little is said about the success of these movements. People only learn about their existence when something bad happens.
The American government supports the children’s right movements through various institutions. The government has established juvenile courts that help to arbitrate issues of child abuse. The courts work in union with the kids’ rights movements to ensure that the society observes the established children’s rights. The federal and state governments also support the children’s rights movements through legislation. As per Freeman (2006, p. 279), the federal and state governments have enacted laws, which have empowered the movements in the fight against child abuse. Before the enactment of legislation, the children’s rights movements could not get involved in family issues. Today, the movements can intervene in family matters whenever they suspect incidents of child abuse. According to Hall (2005, p. 1238), there are over 500 child advocacy groups that support the children’s rights movements. The primary goal of the advocacy groups is to assist children’s rights movements to investigate and address cases of child abuse. The advocacy groups have established numerous centers that facilitate forensic interviews with victims of child abuse.
Initially, the children’s rights movements worked in liaison with charitable organizations. The organizations helped to rescue children who were victims of exploitation. Besides, the charitable organizations worked in liaison with the government to educate the public about the importance of observing children’s rights. Inadequate finance made it hard for many charitable organizations to continue to fight for the rights of the children. However, this does not mean that there are no charitable organizations that fight for children’s rights in the United States (Roose & Bouverne-de-Bie, 2013, p. 437). Apart from charitable organizations, other supporters of children’s rights movements include the American government and the child advocacy groups. Moreover, many individual activists work in collaboration with the children’s rights movements. For instance, celebrities like Oprah Winfrey and Elton Jon and Angelina Jolie help the movements to champion their course.
Hussey, Chang, and Kotch (2006, p. 76) argue that the children’s rights movements do not live up to the ideologies that led to their establishment. The movements believed that the society requires protecting children. Additionally, they felt that children have exclusive rights. Many times, the society only focuses on the obligations that the children have towards their parents. They overlook the obligations of the parents, community and government to the children. In spite of the children’s rights movements appreciating that parents have an obligation to take care of the children and educate them, they do little to ensure that the parents meet their part of bargain. For instance, there are many children who loiter in streets of Las Vegas without a place they can call home. A majority of these children come from households that have both the mother and the father. However, the parents abdicate their responsibilities forcing the children to go to the streets a fed for themselves (Hussey et al., 2006, p. 78). One wonders if the children’s rights movements are aware of such instances. If they are aware, what have they done to ensure that the children go back to their families? Besides, what have they done to guarantee that the parents assume their responsibilities? The children’s rights movements do not require filing lawsuits to force the parents to take back the children and assume their responsibilities. Instead, they need to talk with the parents and help them to overcome the challenges that make them unable to take care of the children (Hussey et al., 2006, p. 81). However, it appears that they have done little to help the children particularly in areas inhabited by minority groups.
The children’s rights movements understand that kids have some needs that the nation should satisfy. Industrial growth brought about the demand for labor. The available manpower could not serve the high number of industries in the United States. Thus, some industries started to recruit children. The children stopped to attend to domestic chores and got assimilated into the factories (Mildred & Plummer, 2009, p. 603). Some activists like Charles Dickens felt that the plant owners were exploiting children. As a result, they started to publish articles that exposed factories that took advantage of children. The urge to stop child labor and ensure that children have access to education led to the establishment of children’s rights movements (Myers, 2008, p. 457). However, it appears that the spirit of fighting for the right of children to education continues to dwindle with time. Many parents do not take their kids to school. The government has done little to ensure that the kids are in classes. Unfortunately, the children’s rights movements that are supposed to work as watchdogs do little to pressure the government and parents to take children to school.
Oliver and Johnston (2007, p. 41) posit that the children’s rights movements outline numerous demands that seek to ensure that kids are not mistreated or exploited. One of the requirements is the right to healthy life and health care services. Oliver and Johnston (2007, p. 43) claim that the children’s rights movements demand that the government provides health care services to children. Additionally, the movements require that the community and government ensure that children live in a healthy environment. According to Oliver and Johnston (2007, p. 45), the children’s rights movements insist that kids should be protected from physical and sexual abuse. The movements advocate installation of severe punishment to deal with those who assault children either physically or sexually. No one has the right to beat children. The movements require parents to use other forms of chastisement to punish their children.
One may argue that the children’s rights movements have failed in their mandate. It would be preposterous to claim that the movements have succeeded yet they still fight for these demands. The demands that led to the establishment of children’s rights movements are the same grievances that champion today. No new demands have evolved. It signifies that the movements are yet to achieve their core objectives forty years down the line. The movements are yet to ensure that the government and society protects girls from the minority groups against being recruited into prostitution (Hawes, 2004, p. 152). Additionally, many boys from the African American families continue to indulge in drug abuse, despite the movements championing for the abolishment of drug trafficking. For example, over 30% of school-going children fall victims of drug abuse in the United States. To our surprise many kids still do not have access to social benefits like quality health.
Most children’s rights movements are organized in the form of non-profit organizations. The movements such as Children’s rights Council and Children’s Defense Fund (CDF) are non-profit organizations that help to protect children against abuse. A majority of the non-profit organizations are created by individuals with vast experience in resolving custody and other family disputes that involve children. These are people with common interests (Reynaert, Bouverne-de-Bie & Vandevelde, 2009, p. 520). They have the desire to ensure that children enjoy their tender age without interference. The involvement of celebrities in the fight against the rights of children is an indication that the children’s rights movement cannot win this battle alone. Time has come for other parties to assist the movements in the fight. Celebrities like David Brenner and Jamie Farr assist the Children’s Right Council in the fight against child abuse. The involvement of celebrities and other influential individuals is a clear indication that the society has started to realize that children’s rights movements have taken long to realize their goals.
A majority of the states in America have Child Protective Services (CPS), which are governmental institution that deals with the cases of child abuse (Reynaert et al., 2009, p. 522). Besides, the institutions assist children who are neglected by their parents or guardians. One may wonder what these institutions do as many children are still on streets. The cases of child abuse are still high amid ethnic minorities. Does this imply that the institutions have neglected the minority groups or they are unaware of instances of child abuse among these groups? It can only be that they have failed to meet the objectives that led to their formation.
Proponents of the children’s rights movements claim that they have succeeded in many ways. First, the movements helped to abolish racial discrimination in schools. Initially, the white and black children could not interact in schools. However, the children’s rights movements fought for equal rights for all children regardless of their race. Eventually, the blacks were allowed to send their children to white schools (Wall & Dar, 2011, p. 601). The children’s rights movements also succeeded in minimizing the rate of child labor in the United States. Besides, they ensured that all children had access to education. Presently, most American children have access to education. Wall and Dar (2011, p. 604) assert that the children’s rights movements have succeeded in ensuring that the government provides quality medical services to children. In 2013, the children’s rights movements managed to lower the voting age. Currently, the children can participate in city elections at the age of sixteen years. The movements continue to fight for children’s rights to quality medical care (Lundy, 2007, p. 931). Movements such as the American Academy of Pediatrics seek to give doctors the power to intervene in case a child is in danger, and the parents are against treatment due to cultural or spiritual beliefs.
In spite of the success, the children’s rights movements have failed to mitigate numerous challenges that affect children. The children’s rights movements have failed to recognize that fighting for children’s right alone cannot help to eliminate the problems that they encounter. The children do not require rights, they need actions. Children need shelter, food, education, clothing and many other requirements. Enacting laws cannot help in the provision of these requirements. Instead of fighting for children rights, the movements ought to pressure the government to ensure that children have access to all these necessities. Many children still do not have access to quality health care and excellent education despite the children’s rights movement championing for the same. Besides, cases of child labor and prostitution are still common in the United States, particularly among the African Americans. For instance, in 2006, Wal-Mart was accused of hiring children as tailors (Lundy, 2007, p. 932).
The children’s rights movements have a lot to do in the future. The movements are expected to be at the forefront in ensuring that children have access to medical services. Besides, the movements should pressure the government to endorse the Convention on the Rights of the Children (CRC) as this will compel it to take the lead in the promotion of children’s rights. In the future, children’s rights movements should participate in the realization of the established rights and not just act as watchdogs.
The children’s rights movements have been in operation since early 19th century. In the United States, the movements are run as non-profit institutions that receive support from donors and well wishers. Initially, the movements worked in liaison with charitable organizations. Lack of adequate funds impedes the effectiveness of the movements. The children’s rights movements demand the provision of quality education and medical service to children. Presently, the children’s rights movements do not live up to the ideologies that led to their establishment. Despite acknowledging that children are vulnerable and require protection, they have done little to accomplish the same. Many children are abandoned on streets. The movements have done little to reunite these children with their parents. Additionally, they do not pressurize the government and society to take care of children. Many children continue to suffer from physical assault. Others have been forced by their parents to look for employment instead of going to school. The present demands that the children’s rights movements fight for are the same that led to their establishment. It shows that the movements are yet to realize their core objectives. They still have a long way to go to ensure that the government and society meet the obligations that they have towards the children.
Archard, D. (2015). Children: Rights and childhood. New York: Routledge.
Cmiel, K. (2004). The recent history of human rights. The American Historical Review, 109(1), 117-135.
Freeman, M. (2006). The future of children’s rights. Children & Society, 14(4), 277-293.
Hall, J. (2005). The long civil rights movement and the political uses of the past. The Journal of American History, 91(4), 1233-1263.
Hawes, J. (2004). The children’s rights movement: A history of advocacy and protection. Boston: Twayne Publishers.
Hussey, J., Chang, J., & Kotch, J. (2006). Child maltreatment in the United States: Prevalence, risk factors, and adolescent health consequences. Pediatrics, 118(3), 74-89.
Lundy, L. (2007). Voice is not enough: Conceptualizing article 12 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. British Educational Research Journal, 33(6), 927-942.
Mildred, J., & Plummer, C. (2009). Responding to child sexual abuse in the United States and Kenya: Child protection and children’s rights. Children and Youth Services Review, 31(6), 601-608.
Myers, J. (2008). A short history of child protection in America. Family Law Quarterly, 42(3), 449-463.
Oliver, P., & Johnston, H. (2007). What a good idea! Ideologies and frames in social movements research. An International Quarterly, 5(1), 37-54.
Reynaert, D., Bouverne-de-Bie, M., & Vandevelde, S. (2009). A review of children’s right literature since adoption of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. Childhood, 16(4), 518-534.
Roose, R., & Bouverne-de-Bie, M. (2013). Do children have rights or do their rights have to be realized? The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child as a frame of reference for pedagogical action. Journal of Philosophy of Education, 41(3), 431-443.
Wall, J., & Dar, A. (2011). Children’s political representation: The right to make a difference. International Journal of Children’s Rights, 19(4), 59