Rich Country, Poor Children

The other night I watched a disturbing report on 60 Minutes about newly homeless children in Florida who were living in vans and cheap motels, studying by candlelight, and getting ready for school in public bathrooms. A large segment of these children were living with parents who made a comfortable living and owned homes just two, three, or even one year ago.

Now I am not a naïve U.S. citizen -- I know that the poverty rates in the wealthiest nation are at record highs, and the middle class is disappearing. Women, once employed at a higher rate than their male counterparts, are now facing the same unemployment rates as men. According to a recent story in the New York Times, the portion of American women at work declined to 53 percent in February, the lowest levels since 1988.

I have accepted that the jobless rate may remain the same, or possibly rise as projected, for a few more years. But I cannot accept the fact that our children are starving as our economy is booming and our bankers are reaching record profits.

According to the 60 Minutes report:

The government considers a family of four to be impoverished if they take in less than $22,000 a year. Based on that standard, and government projections of unemployment, it is estimated the poverty rate for kids in this country will soon hit 25 percent. Those children would be the largest American generation to be raised in hard times since the Great Depression.
I then discovered something greatly disappointing about my country: since its inception in 1989, only two countries have not ratified UNICEF's Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) -- the U.S. and Somalia.

On the presidential campaign trail, candidate Obama expressed a strong interest in ratifying the global initiative; in 2009, his administration then claimed the U.S. would sign on. That was two years ago, and we now have a rising poverty rate that will affect 1 in every 4 children.

Can our policy makers at the very least begin the process of attaining higher standards of living for our children and future generations?

According to UNICEF's site, the CRC:
"...highlights the unalienable rights of children. It establishes that governments will, to the best of their ability, ensure that all children have adequate shelter and a safe living environment, nutritious food, clean water, health care, and education. It grants children the opportunity to voice their opinions and concerns. In essence, the CRC requires governments to protect the humanity and value the potential of all children."

The Obama administration has a lot of policy decisions on the agenda that are surely taking a precedence over the CRC. But without prioritizing the millions of voiceless children suffering right now, the country is not prioritizing its own future. To tell your legislators to ratify the CRC, sign this petition.