From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Treasure children, Edelman urges

Date 20 Jun 2002 14:34:40 -0400

Note #7298 from PCUSA NEWS to PRESBYNEWS:


Treasure children, Edelman urges

Founder of Children's Defense Fund rallies peacemakers

by Eva Stimson

COLUMBUS, OH -  Marian Wright Edelman, the founder and president of the Children's Defense Fund (CDF), rallied a crowd of nearly 300 Presbyterian peacemakers to build a nation and world in which no child lives in poverty.

"Rather than investing in tax cuts for the wealthy, let's invest in leaving no child behind," she said. "We don't have a money problem; we have a values problem, and a priorities problem. We've got to wear out our leaders, until they hear our voices and do justice for our children."

Edelman spoke during a dinner sponsored by the Presbyterian Peacemaking Program and the Presbyterian Child Advocacy Office. Her address kicked off the Peacemaking Program's decade of "Building a Culture of Peace and Nonviolence for All God's Children."

She expressed disappointment that the CDF is fighting the same battles, 30 years after its founding, and urged Presbyterians to make the most of the PC(USA)'s 10-year emphasis on helping children. "By the end of this decade," she declared, "we're going to have a new America, where every child is welcome at the table."

In the United States, one in five children under age 3 lives in poverty, she said, inviting her listeners to imagine a wealthy family with five children in which "four have plenty to eat and a place to sleep, and one does not."  

The fifth child, she said, doesn't get vaccinations or regular medical checkups; is left in sub-standard child-care settings while his or her parents work to make ends meet; is educated in crumbling school buildings with poorly prepared teachers; and is "unread-to, untalked-to, unsung-to, propped in front of a television set," seeing many programs featuring violence.

CDF statistics show that children living in poverty are more likely to have working parents than parents on welfare, Edelman said. They are more likely to be white than Latino or African-American, and more likely to be living in rural areas than in cities. Poor children are twice as likely as others to be abused and neglected.

The audience applauded when Edelman called for the U.S. government to focus on "getting people out of poverty, rather than off of welfare." She said Americans are getting too "used to" homeless shelters, and ought to be working to end homelessness. "We need to close down shelters and give children stable homes," she said.

Promoting two-parent families is a good idea, she added, but the best way to keep families together is to make sure they have steady income from jobs that pay a living wage.

Urging support for additional funding for early childhood programs, she said: "Something is wrong with a society that will spend $30,000 to $40,000 to lock up a young person who gets into trouble, and won't spend $5,000 to send a child to Head Start. We need to change our nation's priorities."

Sara Lisherness, coordinator of the Presbyterian Peacemaking Program, urged guests at the dinner to use the paper and envelopes left on their tables to write letters to members of Congress about some of the issues Edelman discussed.

The program also included a tribute to Robert F. Smylie, who is retiring after long service as director of the Presbyterian United Nations Office in New York City.
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