In last year’s campaign for the U.S. Presidency, Barack Obama admirably deemed himself as "a champion for children." Given his recent child advocacy plan, he has begun to show a serious intention to live up to that title. In the plan, he has promised that every child will be granted health insurance. The plan will also expand educational opportunities for children in low-income families, extend other necessary resources for these families, support and supplement the foster care system, and provide better protections for children within the U.S. from violence and neglect.
Article 24 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) states that it is the right of a child to enjoy the highest attainable standards of health. Consistent with this crucial Convention, on February 4, 2009 President Obama signed the Children's Health Insurance Bill. The recently passed Child Health Insurance Bill expands the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) to increase coverage to 11.1 million children. Currently SCHIP provides coverage for 7 million children who are otherwise ineligible to receive Medicaid. This action is in line with an eventual goal to secure health insurance for every child within the U.S.
In contrast to the Bush Administration, within weeks of being in office, the new administration can be said to have well surpassed the previous administration's accomplishments in supporting child rights. The past administration not only failed to advocate for the expansion of child health care but when the legislation presented itself in near finality, the initiative was vetoed. Since August 2007, the U.S. House has voted at least seven times in favor of an expansion to child health insurance but without exception, with heavy-hands and dulled consciences, these efforts were thwarted by the Bush Administration. President Bush himself, alone, vetoed two similar bills that proposed the expansion of health care coverage for children.
Given the common goals of the CRC and the Obama-Biden Child Advocacy plan, it is time for the new administration to the international system to work with the U.S. and all other nations on its policies for the health and well-being of the child. As Nancy Pelosi stated on the passing of the Child Advocacy plan: "This is the beginning of the change that the American people voted for in the last election, and that we will achieve with President Barack Obama."
Now that the expansion of child rights is in the air, this may be the best opportunity for the U.S. to ratify the CRC and its universal approach to promoting the well-being of all children. Like the current Obama Administration efforts, the CRC emphasizes the importance of the mental and physical health of the child as well as the necessity of preventive health care. Child advocates of all shapes and forms, should work in concert toward the final ratification of the CRC. We the American people are now responsible for helping President Obama work toward the fulfillment of his campaign promises, and demonstrate to him that indeed, U.S. children, and all the children of the world, are at the top of our priority list. Now is the time to press Washington to ratify the CRC.
--Julie Kornfeld and Brad Olson, Northwestern University, Rights for Our Future
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