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New handbook by Cornell educator promotes children's rights

Children are not "needy" persons, "lesser" adults or "property." They are full citizens with the same basic entitlements as adults, including the right to live free of violence and neglect, with inherent dignity and worth, and to receive respect and protection.

This is the view promoted in the Children's Rights Handbook, a new book authored by Claire Bedard, a children's rights educator at the Family Life Development Center (FLDC) at Cornell University. The handbook, published by Cornell with CHILDHOPE U.S.A. (1996, $9.95) is a slim soft-cover volume intended as an introductory guide on children's rights primarily for child protection professionals but also for students, scholars, legislators and others interested in advancing the cause of children's rights.

"Laws that exist to protect children are one thing, but a human rights perspective adds broader elements," says Bedard, who has worked in international aid and children's rights for 10 years. "In simple, accessible language, this book is intended to bridge that gap between what exists in current legislation and what is morally acceptable in practice when it comes to children."

In 1990, the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child became international law. A 54-article proclamation, it provides countries with a clear, legal statement of a government's commitment to protecting children; to date, that document has been ratified by more than 168 countries, making it the most widely endorsed of all human rights documents. Ironically, although the United States signed the U.N. Convention in 1995, it has yet to ratify it.

"Many countries have made a commitment to promote the U.N. Convention but too many Americans know little or nothing about it," Bedard said. "This handbook hopefully will help get the word out that the convention needs to be ratified by Congress to begin the legal process of harmonizing U.S. laws with the U.N. Convention. It should also provide some added moral ground for child protection workers to fight for kids, a much needed boost in this age of services cut-backs."

The 88-page handbook, supported by a grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, begins with a discussion of human and children's rights and the need for a national children's rights policy for child protection. A 12-step practical guide helps readers put children first in policy and practice. The book concludes with a list of resources, information on how to increase awareness of the principles at work and at home and with the text of the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child.

The book was written and published with financial support from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. To purchase a copy, contact Bedard at FLDC, G-20 MVR, Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y. 14853; fax: (607) 255-8562 or e-mail See for children's rights updates.