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The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ASPA as an organization.
By David Kenneth Waldman
July 31, 2015
The future of society depends on the extent of civil and human rights granted to children. “Children are the future” has become an axiom. Nonetheless, according to the National Center for Children in Poverty, “More than 16 million children in the United States – 22 percent of all children – live in families with incomes below the federal poverty level.” Although political leaders, special interest groups, civil society and policy-makers are tasked with writing policies that affect children and youth, yet there is no participatory mechanism for them to be part of the policymaking process. Why is there no collaborative policymaking model for children rights in the United States?
Collaborative policymaking and politics
Partisan politics in the United States has prevented ratification of The Convention on the Rights of the Child by Congress. The Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), Article 12, represents the respect for the views of the child. This assumes that there is a collaborative model where children are part of a decision-making process. When political leaders make policy decisions which affect children, do children have the right to express their opinions?
Conservatives in Congress that oppose the ratification of the CRC speak of the plethora of laws that already protect children. The argument advanced is that children are already protected in the United States more than anywhere else in the world. I argue that protection of children is not an alternative to granting age appropriate access in order for children to express ideas and views that directly affect their well-being.
ASPA code of ethics
Public policy decisions made by Congress affects every aspect of our lives such as marriage equality, health care, early childhood education, minimum wage, free access to higher education, civil rights, voting rights and community based policing. Yet, there is no collaborative policy model to include the considerations of children. If we are to uphold the American Society Public Administrators’ updated Code of Ethics, do we then have an obligation to listen to children?
In particular, reflect on the first six ethical standards and consider that “the public interest and good” includes children.
ASPA Code of Ethics (partial list)
1. Advance the Public Interest. Promote the interests of the public.
2. Uphold the Constitution and the Law. Respect and support government constitutions and laws, while seeking to improve laws and policies to promote the public good.
3. Promote democratic participation. Inform the public and encourage active engagement in governance. Be open, transparent and responsive, and respect and assist all persons in their dealings with public organizations.
4. Strengthen social equity. Treat all persons with fairness, justice, and equality and respect individual differences, rights and freedoms. Promote affirmative action and other initiatives to reduce unfairness, injustice and inequality in society.
5. Fully Inform and Advise. Provide accurate, honest, comprehensive, and timely information and advice to elected and appointed officials and governing board members, and to staff members in your organization.
6. Demonstrate personal integrity. Adhere to the highest standards of conduct to inspire public confidence and trust in public service.
It is time for ASPA to take the lead and redefine for the public what it means to represent children.
Cross sector collaboration with civil society
Public policy collaboration with civil society has been proven successful in practice. A partnership with local community based organizations would enable a means to reach children in any constituency. For example, a policy focused on early childhood education may become an important first step toward including children’s feelings. Cross-sector collaboration with civil society, with support from public managers, requires an educated public on the importance of listening to children. An expertise to educate and implement programs that addresses complex social issues necessitates an enlightened populace and public managers who consider children’s perspective.
There is a need to empower public managers to implement policy which supports recommendations from children. Policy decisions are informed best when children are included and the implication is they are not making the decisions. Research from Miller on parent-child collaborative decision-making offers a model for a policy makers, public managers and political leaders. The achievement of the ethical code of ASPA is dependent on the inclusion of the entire public, which includes children. The question is how to educate public policy leaders with a new policy method that includes active input from children.
Asking children to contribute to civics as a reality, and not as a subject they take in high school, creates a potential for significant positive social change. It is time for policymaking in the United States to listen to all children.
Children living below the poverty income level is a stark reality. Who knows what is required to solve this social ill better than they do? I call for a dialogue among all who are part of a policy decision-making process to include children. Policy that is based on the assimilation of ideas from all sectors and actors, including children, will then give credence to the statement “children are our future.”
Author: David Kenneth Waldman is founder, president and CEO of To Love Children Educational Foundation International Inc. He received his Ph.D. from the School of Public Policy and Public Administration at Walden University. The author can be reached at www.tolovechildren.org or [email protected].
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