Unwillingly on Holiday
1. Understanding of s Day. Text II, knowing more information on April Fool’
2. Oral work: on the train
3. Interaction activities: an unforgettable experience 4. Precis writing: unwillingly on holiday 5. Supplementary reading
Child Abuse: How Much Longer?
We all know that prevention is better than cure, but provincial ministries of health devote less than 1% of their budgets to prevention of mental health problems. Most of the money goes toward treatment. We want teenagers unprepared for parenthood to stop having children, but we are unwilling to invest in family planning, educational and preventive services. The result: Teenage pregnancy in Canada has sharply risen in recent years, an increase from 39,340 in 1987 to 45,771 in 1995. We know that about 26% of Canadian children experience behavioural, learning, emotional or social problems, but nobody seems to panic. We understand that brain malleability is greatest during the first years of life, but we spend most of our economic and social resources on adults and seniors. We have social funds for unemployed people and pension plans for the retired, but there is no comparable fund for disadvantaged children. We hear the economy is doing very well, but the number of children at risk goes up all the time. While provincial and federal budgets are being balanced, children continue to suffer, perhaps more than before. A child
is reported missing in Canada about every 9 minutes, for a total of more than 56,000 cases a year. Many of these children leave their homes to escape abuse. Close to a million and a half, or 21% of Canada's children live in poverty, half a million more than in 1989, when the entire House of Commons voted to end child poverty by the year 2000. We want communities to contribute to the well-being of children and youth, but instead of supporting formal and informal services we cut their funding. Recently, the National Forum on Health, the Standing Committee on Health of the House of Commons, Health Canada, the National Crime Prevention Council, and the Canadian Association of Public Health, to name but a few, affirmed the importance of strong communities for children's health. These claims are at odds with prevailing policies of social disinvestment. We are proud of the international reputation of Canada in promoting children's rights, but the country has higher rates of child poverty than most industrialized nations. In a report entitled Towards Well-Being, the Standing Committee on Health of the House of Commons stated that "poverty among children in Canada is especially troublesome when compared with the rate in other industrialized countries. The rate of child poverty in Canada after government redistribution is four times the rate in Sweden, twice as high as in France and Germany, and 1.4 times the rate in Great Britain. Only in the United States is the rate higher than in Canada." We require a license to fish, but have no standards to ensure that parents know how to treat their children. We watch ads to prevent cruelty against animals and trees, but see no such thing to stop child abuse. So what, you might say, life is full of contradictions, and besides, "we're not perfect." True, we're not perfect, but unless like Rip Van Winkle, we've been peacefully sleeping for the past 20 years, we must be disturbed by these contradictions. Child abuse happens every day, in every community. Yet public concern is only sporadic, elicited mainly by reports of brutal assaults against children. Child maltreatment, however, is not just about brutality; it is also about subtle but protracted and piercing pain, about feeling lonely, abandoned, betrayed, rejected and unworthy. Daily humiliation, however, is not newsworthy. Children's silent anguish is not flashy enough for the nightly news. Albeit poignant reports on the subject have been published and hotly debated, they have been only temporarily considered and permanently shelved. Lack of sustained attention to child abuse and neglect notwithstanding, the problem persists, and it is close to all of us.
Maltreatment is about trust betrayed, love warped, and opportunities lost; it is about stealing happiness and depriving joy; it is about exploiting power and denigrating others. Abuse is about a vicious cycle that affects victims, their offsprings, and society at large. While some children develop resiliency and overcome abusive backgrounds to become loving, caring, and productive citizens, many others succumb under the weight of the trauma and develop psychological problems. Crime and delinquency, which cost Canadians approximately $46 billion annually, have been linked to histories of abuse. The enormous price of punitive and rehabilitative services drains our social wealth to the point that little is left for preventing abuse from occurring in the first place. The answer: Address the root causes of the problem and interrupt the vicious cycle. The barrier: Cynicism about governments' and communities' abilities to stop abuse. The evidence: Many emotional, cognitive, behavioural, and social problems, including child maltreatment, can be significantly prevented. Research shows that some prevention programs are effective and save governments up to 7 dollars for each dollar invested. Unless we are determined to eradicate child abuse, we can expect the cost of remedial and therapeutic services associated with it to go up endlessly. The more abuse there is, the stronger the call for reactive services, and fewer the dollars for proactive interventions. It is only by a massive investment in prevention that we can reasonably expect less suffering. Such an investment, while costly at first, will more than pay for itself in dollars saved for remedial services in special education, welfare, health, and the criminal justice system. In human terms, the savings simply defy calculation. Ironically, our major problem is not the abuse itself, for it is tragic but largely preventable. Our gravest problem is the lack of social concern and political will. Our collective task is to resurrect public concern, infuse political will, and pressure governments to replicate programs that have proven successful in preventing child abuse. The measure of our success will be how much longer we have to wait until we stop child abuse.
Children's Rights: Who Cares?
January 1998 Austria, 1940s, doctors kill children with disabilities to examine their brains. Brazil, 1980s, off- duty police execute street children because
they are considered a public nuisance. United States, 1990, the US Advisory Board on Child Abuse and Neglect declares society's lack of response to the crisis of child abuse a national moral disaster. Canada, 1997, the number of children living in poverty reaches a million and a half. Ontario, 1997, child protection services can't cope with the increased number of families requiring help due to cuts in social programmes. Children's rights are violated everywhere because children have no vote and no power. No vote, no voice; no voice, no power; no power, no rights. Children, no doubt the most vulnerable members of society, have no social movement to advance their cause. Unlike other groups claiming their legitimate rights, such as seniors, labour, women, and ethnic minorities, children are political orphans. Until adults embrace their plight seriously, children will continue to suffer from blatant as well as subtle forms of abuse. This brings us to the question of caring. Most adults would take offence at the thought that they don't care about children. Most of us regard ourselves as caring and compassionate people. But a second look at our caring practices suggests that being nice to a few kids is not good enough. Caring can be reactive and proactive, and caring can be shown towards those near to us and those far from us. I submit that most of us limit our caring to those children who are close to us. If and when we do care about children beyond our families, schools, and communities, we do so mostly in a reactive form; typically in response to a crisis or a dramatic event like a famine. Acting compassionately toward our own children is not good enough. What about the needs of other children who suffer from hunger, abuse, exploitation, and shame? Helping victims of disease or poverty is not good enough either. We need to extend our compassion beyond our immediate circle of care, and we need to prevent poverty and illness, not just respond to them after the fact. If we think about children's rights in the narrow terms of caring only about our own youngsters' well-being, then perhaps a lot of us do care. But if we think about caring as looking after the unfortunate children of society in the present as well as in the future, then few of us really stand up to the challenge. Let's consider the predicament of children whose rights are violated, who are abused by parents, and who go hungry because social policies neglect to take their needs seriously into account. If we truly care about their rights, and about the rights of children of future generations, then we need to invest effort, money, and ample resources to prevent these tragedies from occurring, in the present, and in the future. Adults invest in pension plans to avert poverty in old age. Employees pay unemployment
insurance to guard against harsh economic times. Even the government contributes to these funds because it recognizes that citizens need protection. But this protection is afforded only to those who vote: adults and seniors. Children have no vote and no comparable social fund either. It is easy for politicians to divert calls for increased resources for children because they can always point to the parents as the ones who should be looking after their children. Children's misfortune is conveniently ascribed to parental failure. This is despite an abundance of social science research, conveniently ignored by politicians, which points to the fact that a reduction in resources results in increased family stress and in violations of children's rights. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child stipulates that children's rights depend on our ability to provide them with protection, health care, opportunities for education and personal development, compassion, voice, autonomy, respect for their diverse backgrounds, and adequate resources. These are useful guidelines to promote the rights of the children we know and of those we don't know. Just like seniors deserve their pensions, and unemployed people deserve their benefits, so do children deserve social funds to ensure that the principles inscribed in the Convention are upheld. Improving children's lives requires a long term investment, a proactive strategy that provides families with child care and that eliminates child poverty, just like several European countries have done. Caring is more than showing empathy toward our children. Caring is fighting to ensure a decent future for all children. Let's revisit then the meaning of caring. If caring involves a concern, not only for our own children but for others' as well, and if caring entails looking after children in the present as well as in the future, what are we doing that can be legitimately called caring? When was the last time that you, or I, became involved in social policies affecting children? What are we doing to prevent violations of children's rights? Several Canadian organizations are advocating the cause of children. Coalitions like Campaign 2000 and Voices for Children, as well as the Canadian Council on Social Development, strive to influence social policy so that governments and citizens don't just react to the needs of disadvantaged children; their goal is to prevent disadvantage altogether, a caring goal indeed.