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February 17, 2010 > County adopts Bill of Rights for children and youth

County adopts Bill of Rights for children and youth

Submitted By Gwendolyn Mitchell

The United Nations proclaimed an International Children's Bill of Rights in 1990. The State of California approved its own Children's Bill of Rights in 2009, modeled after the Bill of Rights for Children and Youth of San Mateo County. The Santa Clara County Children's Agenda urged all County and local agencies, parents, guardians and community organizations to join in support of the bills or rights for children and youth.

Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors adopted a Bill of Rights for Santa Clara County's Children and Youth on February 9, 2010. This action represents a pledge by local leaders to keep the needs of children and youth at the forefront when decisions are made in terms of policies, budgets and government practices. It encompasses a plan for action to protect the rights of children and youth with reliable partnerships, resources and cohesive efforts.

"With childhood obesity and dropout rates at such high levels, we must do more to protect our children's future," said Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors President Ken Yeager. "By endorsing the Bill of Rights for Children and Youth, we emphasize the need to keep the county's children a priority as we make our decisions." The Bill of Rights for Children and Youth in Santa Clara County has the full support of local organizations advocating on youth issues, such as the Child Abuse Council and the Children's Agenda Vision Council, which was developed by hundreds of community partners under the leadership of Kids in Common.

Major challenges threaten the development of children and youth in Santa Clara County. Among them, The Children's Agenda points out that nearly 3,000 students in grades 9-12 drop out of high school annually; more than 1 in 4 children have significant development needs when they enter kindergarten; only 8 percent of middle and high school students have the developmental assets they need to thrive; nearly 25,000 students who are eligible for free or reduced cost lunches do not receive this support; and only half of third grade students perform at grade-level on reading tests.

"Children are entitled to fundamental rights that should never be taken for granted," said Supervisor Dave Cortese, Chairperson of the Board's Children, Seniors and Families Committee. "I wholeheartedly support this Bill of Rights, because it will be a constant reminder of our shared commitment and accountability to our children and youth."

Santa Clara County's Children's Agenda provides the community with an explicit set of goals and methods for measuring the well-being of local children, based on 13 explicit indicators. These indicators, collected and monitored over time to track programs and ensure children are safe, healthy and successful in school and life, include access to healthcare; healthy lifestyle; early childhood social and emotional development; school readiness; third grade reading proficiency; eighth grade math proficiency; children in the thriving zone of developmental assets; children fluent in 2+ languages; high school graduation rates; children living in safe and stable families; and children and youth reporting they feel valued by the community, or children experiencing hunger; and juvenile arrest rates.

The County's Bill of Rights for Children and Youth will help local leaders, organizations, communities and families stay focused on children and youth as a priority so that they:

* Have a healthy mind, body and spirit that enable them to maximize their potential.
* Develop a healthy attachment to a parent, guardian or caregiver and an ongoing relationship with a caring and supportive adult.
* Their essential needs are met - nutritious food, shelter, clothing, healthcare, and accessible transportation.
* Have a safe and healthy environment, including homes, schools, neighborhoods and communities.
* Have access to a 21st century education that promotes success in life, in future careers and a love of life-long learning.
* Have training in life skills that will prepare them to live independently, be self-sufficient and contribute to their community.
* Have employment opportunities with protections from unfair labor practices.
* Have freedom from mistreatment, abuse and neglect.
* Have a voice in matters that affect them.
* Have a sense of hope for their future.

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