Social Justice for the Youth

“There is evidence, in fact, that there may be grounds for concern that the child receives the worst of both worlds: that he gets neither the protections accorded to adults nor the solicitous care and regenerative treatment postulated for children,”   Justice Abe Fortas in Kent v. United States. 1966

Personal Opinion on Social Justice for Youth:

Social Justice is a fight for equality, it’s hard to define the movements for youth because of the laws set for the underage. The laws meant to protect the youth from making poor decisions, due to a lack of experience and knowledge, possibly prevents full access to Social Justice for the youth. Especially youth in poor positions, such as being raised in neighborhoods of crime and poverty, are more likely to have less of a chance of fighting for or receiving social justice.

Child Welfare
By Judith M. Schagrin, LCSW-C

Social justice means all citizens are entitled to the same rights and services. I am deeply concerned that we continue to fail the children who are abused, neglected, and just plain unwanted. Foster children, who depend on society’s largesse for their very existence, go largely unseen. Because these are children, they don’t fund any political campaigns, lobby any elected representatives for an opportunity to be heard, or organize any marches to advocate for better services. They have no voice if we don’t speak for them.

It’s not that we haven’t tried to organize a functional child welfare system. Since the start of our modern-day foster care system in the mid-1880s, when Charles Loring Brace started the Orphan Train Movement to resettle orphaned children from New York City to states in the Midwest and beyond, there have been numerous efforts to get it right. We have strategically planned, privatized, transformed systems, thought outside the box, been accountable, computerized, wrapped around, and done more with less. But as a national priority, the nation’s child welfare system is nearly an afterthought. Without the occasional sensationalized child death, I suspect these families would fall off the radar altogether. Unfortunately, the story they have to tell often isn’t pretty, revealing a troubling underbelly of our society. Some prefer to keep these images far away, finding comfort in denial.

While we are a country of people who profess to love their children, there were 3 million reports of child maltreatment in 2004. Experts believe this represents only one third of actual incidents. More than 800,000 reports were found indicating a rate of 2.9 per 1,000 children. That’s not surprising, considering how staunchly we defend our right to physically discipline our children. As long as no injuries result, parents may hit their children with impunity.

Four children die from maltreatment every day, a number largely undercounted. Neglect, often associated with poverty, leads to slightly more child deaths each year than abuse. According to the 2005 census, 17.6% of children under the age of 18 live in poverty; the federal poverty level is $20,000 per year for a family of four. Of children in female-headed households, an appalling 42% exist under the poverty line.

Our children have only a handful of years to be children, only a brief period to build the foundation for a productive and satisfying adulthood. It’s time we got it right—the children can’t wait.

— Judith M. Schagrin, LCSW-C, is the assistant director for Children’s Services at the Baltimore County Department of Social Services. She was named the 2004 Social Worker of the Year by the National Association of Social Workers.

Advocates for Youth Justice include an organization called Youthlaw. Youthlaw’s Real Rights Project is talking to young people about their rights. Young people tell us about some of their human rights issues, what rights are important to them and how empowering it feels to advocate for change.

This is a video made by Youthlaw called “Real Rights Project” which worked with a range of young people to raise awareness and support them in advocating for better protection of their rights. Young people talking about some of their human rights issues, what rights are important to them and how empowering it feels to advocate for change.

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