Wednesday, January 10, 2018

HEAL No Longer Supports Ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child


HEAL No Longer Supports Ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child
by Angela Smith, HEAL National Coordinator/Co-Founder (revised: January 14th, 2018)

The HEAL Team read the preamble and many articles making wonderful claims about the impact the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child would have for American children and children around the globe.  We believed it to be a step in the right direction for protecting children from harm and providing a framework by which children would be afforded rights and protections not currently provided.  We believed that the phrases in the Convention text, "Recognizing that the child, for the full and harmonious development of his or her personality, should grow up in a family environment, in an atmosphere of happiness, love and understanding...Considering that the child should be fully prepared to live an individual life in society, and brought up in the spirit of the ideals proclaimed in the Charter of the United Nations, and in particular in the spirit of peace, dignity, tolerance, freedom, equality and solidarity..."[1] meant that children would be afforded and mandated the right of children to grow up in a family environment.  However, the remainder of the UN Convention establishes a near mandate for institutionalizing children, something HEAL opposes vehemently.

HEAL opposes any international, federal, or local law that provides for the establishment and funding of institutional "care" for children.  Even the United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF) states that institutionalization is never better for a child than being in a family environment.[2]  But, language throughout the Convention states, "States Parties shall render appropriate assistance to parents and legal guardians in the performance of their child-rearing responsibilities and shall ensure the development of institutions, facilities and services for the care of children.... States Parties shall take all appropriate measures to ensure that children of working parents have the right to benefit from child-care services and facilities for which they are eligible... No part of the present article or article 28 shall be construed so as to interfere with the liberty of individuals and bodies to establish and direct educational institutions... States Parties shall seek to promote the establishment of laws, procedures, authorities and institutions specifically applicable to children alleged as, accused of, or recognized as having infringed the penal law..."[3]  And, for this reason HEAL cannot endorse and does not wish to see the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child ratified by the US at this time.  It needs significant amendment before we would consider supporting it in the future.

People reading this may not understand the full context we are working from at HEAL.  Take for example the fact that in Massachusetts, the Department of Early Education and Care (EEC), which the public and likely you understand to provide Head Start, Pre-School, and other supports for pre-K children, is responsible for licensing (and sometimes funding placements) programs like Chamberlain International School.  Chamberlain is one of many facilities on the HEAL watch-list for exploitation and abuse and you can learn more about it at www.heal-online.org/chamberlain.htm.  So, when we read that the UN wants more funding and power granted to EEC which you may erroneously believe is solely about educational opportunities for pre-K children, we recognize that, at least in the US, this would mean providing institutional "care" like that found at Chamberlain for even more children.  And, this is something we cannot and will never endorse.  In addition, the US already fails to regulate and establish standards for K-12 private schools (including boarding schools) and that the vast majority of States do not regulate these facilities at all, either due to conflicts of interest or simple State policy.  In addition, many of these private residential "schools" (including those identified as "ranches" or providing "work therapy") force their captives to perform labor under threat of deprivation or abuse.  There is no mention regarding coerced labor either in the convention.  And, as stated, exploitation does not appear to be used interchangeably with "forced labor" in similar UN Conventions and therefore should not be assumed to imply inclusion in the definition of exploitation in the Convention on the Rights of the Child. 

There is not one mention in the Convention on prohibiting child labor or providing children the right to not be forced into labor.  The Convention does state that children must be protected from exploitation, including sexual and economic/labor-based exploitation.[4]  However, there is no prohibition of "forced labor" and no mention of preventing "slavery".  You can assume whatever you wish, but, without specifying a prohibition, it seems seriously lacking and provides more loopholes for exploitation and modern slavery.  This is a major issue any international convention on children's rights should prioritize.  There is not one mention that children have the right to be raised in their communities and away from segregated congregate care.  In fact, segregation is not even referenced in the Convention.  Segregation is a major issue that adversely affects children in the US and around the globe.  The Convention does not address this major issue. 

The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities is very explicit in Article 27 protecting individuals with disabilities specifically from slavery, servitude, and forced/compulsory labor.  Source:  http://www.un.org/disabilities/documents/convention/convoptprot-e.pdf (p. 21).  That same Convention (Article 19, page 15) also specifically states that disabled persons have the right to integration in their society and to be free from segregation.   And, those sections are separate from the statements in that convention regarding exploitation, violence, and abuse.  So, one must conclude that for the purposes of such Conventions, the definition and prohibition of slavery/forced labor as well as the right to be free from segregation is separate from the protection from exploitation.  The fact that prohibiting forced labor/slavery in the Convention of the Rights of the Child is omitted raises serious concerns for HEAL. 

HEAL sees the two greatest threats to children and youth in the US as segregation and forced labor/modern slavery.  These are likely the two issues globally most in need of redress.  And, the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child fails miserably to establish firm rules to protect children and youth from both.

HEAL has updated our legislative request (see: www.healreport.tv/heallegislativerequest.pdf)  to remove the portion requesting that the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child be ratified by the US Senate.  Given that it appears to harm children more than help them and fails to address significant issues and abuses affecting children and youth globally, we cannot support it.

Our legislative request is subject to revision and while our volunteers do our best to investigate all matters before taking a position, we did fail to thoroughly examine the Convention before endorsing it.  We ask that if you find error or fault with any statement or position we take and you believe any statement or endorsement has been made ignorantly or in contradiction to our stated mission to stop institutionalized abuse of children and youth (which for us includes stopping the institutionalization of children and youth), please contact us at info@heal-online.org to let us know.  We will make immediate all necessary corrections.
 
HEAL no longer endorses the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and we suggest others reconsider their support of the Convention given its failures to address child labor, wrongful institutionalization, forced/compulsory labor, and other issues while practically mandating a system in which all of these violations are likely to continue unabated.



[1] http://www.ohchr.org/EN/ProfessionalInterest/Pages/CRC.aspx
[2] http://www.unicef.org/cambodia/12681_23295.html       

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