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The Book of Discipline tells us that as a Church, we believe that that all children have the right to quality education. In addition, “children have the rights to food, shelter, clothing, health care, and emotional well-being as do adults, and these rights we affirm as theirs regardless of actions or inactions of their parents or guardians. In particular, children must be protected from economic, physical, and sexual exploitation and abuse.” As Christian parents and guardians and part of the Church we should work to ensure these rights for all children. One way to do that is to stay informed of and involved in the activity of our state legislative body. Those interested in children’s advocacy recently had a perfect opportunity to do just that.
The 6th Annual Children’s Advocacy Day was held at the state capitol on Thursday, February 18th. Thirty-seven civic, religious, business and professional organizations, including the Kentucky United Methodist Women, sponsored the event. After an initial kick off rally in the rotunda, participants were encouraged to attend legislative committee meetings and/or contact their legislators to make their opinions known about child related issues.
The halls of the capitol and the annex were flooded with people of all ages lending their support to the event. Participants lined the passageways outside their legislators’ offices waiting for their turn to speak with their congressperson about one of the pending house or senate bills that will affect the health, education and well being of children in the state. According to literature distributed at the event, Kentucky consistently ranks in the bottom ten in the nation in regards to education, health, safety, juvenile justice and economic well-being of children.
A coalition of children’s advocacy groups created an agenda aimed at improving these features of life for children in our state. The issues of particular interest for the day were divided into three categories: Fair Deal for Working Parents, Safe and Healthy Families and Fair Opportunity for Every Child. The Fair Deal designation includes two bills that would help families save cash and support their children by ensuring fair lending practices and instituting an earned income tax credit. The first bill under the Safe and Healthy Families heading seeks to reduce child abuse and increase family preservation services. The second urges changes to the requirements for school physicals to help monitor and combat childhood obesity. The final grouping of bills is aimed at education and juvenile justice. One seeks to increase the graduation rate by changing the mandatory ages for attendance. In addition, the goal of House Bill 190 is to expand quality preschool for 3 and 4 year olds. Finally, the focus of the last bill is changing methods of punishment for juveniles in hopes of reducing subsequent offenses. These are just a few of the issues the state legislature is currently considering.
Persons wishing to find out more about the bills under consideration can log on to the Legislative Research Commission website: http.//www.lrc.state.ky.us/. This site can help you identify the legislator for your area, learn more about the process and gain valuable information about each piece of legislation. If you missed the opportunity to speak to your legislator on advocacy day, you do not have to wait until next year. Any day is a good day to advocate for the needs and rights of children and speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves.
- written by Cindy Bright