Children's Rights Advocate Visits Law School
April 17, 2009 — Children have been involved in the broad struggle for justice throughout history, but their rights have been overlooked or denied, scholar and advocate Barbara Woodhouse (right) said during a talk at Earle Mack School of Law on April 17.
"Children's courage has been a closely held secret," said Woodhouse, the David H. Levin Chair in Family Law and director of the Center on Children and Families at the University of Florida, who previously taught at the University of Pennsylvania Law School.
Woodhouse was referring to the struggles of well-known figures like statesman and abolitionist Frederick Douglass, who, like others born into slavery, was forced into servitude as a child. "Half the people who built this country during the colonial period were ages 7 to 12," said Woodhouse, discussing her new book, "Hidden in Plain Sight: the Tragedy of Children's Rights from Ben Franklin to Lionel Tate."
But Woodhouse's book also explores the struggles of countless unknown children who are caught up in a variety of ongoing injustices that play out around the world.
The author was joined at the podium by Yan Rong Li, a 27-year-old refugee from China who was aided in her quest for asylum 10 years ago by HIAS and Council Migration Service of Philadelphia, which sponsored the event.
"I am so happy to be here," said Li, (left) who arrived in the U.S. after fleeing to Vietnam from her home in the Fujian Province. Her entire family now lives in the Philadelphia area. "I tried to look for the right to be myself. I couldn't imagine what that would be like 10 years ago."
Now a registered nurse at a Philadelphia nursing home, Li escaped from China after the government imposed crushing fines on her parents for violating the country's one-child policy.
The policy "punishes children for being born," forces many parents into hiding and causes many babies to be abandoned, Woodhouse notes in her book.
Children also need stronger advocates here at home, Woodhouse said, noting that the U.S. and Somalia are the only two nations in the world that have yet to ratify the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Children.
"It's not a silver bullet, but it is an important benchmark," Woodhouse said. "We are a deviant nation in this regard. To me, it's really quite shocking."
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