Support a White House Conference on Children and Youth!

by Cristina Fahrenthold
(Washington, DC)

Support a White House Conference on Children & Youth!

Support a White House Conference on Children & Youth!

The Child Welfare League of America (CWLA) is calling on Congress and the new President to hold a long overdue White House Conference on Children and Youth in 2010.

CWLA has worked to get a bill filed in Congress to hold this conference in 2010 (H.R. 5461 & S. 2771). Presidential candidates Obama and Clinton have signed on as cosponsors; McCain has been asked but has not done so yet.

THREE DECADES have passed without the White House bringing the focus of the nation to examine the state of abused and neglected children. This national conference would regard the welfare of our children and would establish national goals for improvement in the subsequent 10 years.

The fundamental purpose of the 2010 White House Conference on Children and Youth is to fulfill the nation's need for an overall vision in child welfare and to refocus an inspired understanding of the many facts we have at our disposal to put them into practice at this critical juncture. There has never before been the summation of knowledge and experience as what now lies before the 2010 conference. Now is the time to bring together the years of research and expertise that will make a difference in the lives of children if focused upon nationally.

A White House conference on Children and Youth is needed to focus the attention of the nation on the children who, after all, are our responsibility. The conference will examine the greatest needs and set the country on a path to reform. The commitment of the President and the power of the White House is needed to once again make vulnerable children a national priority and point the way to significant reform and improvements.

Below is a history of past White House Conferences and their accomplishments by year.

1909 Conference
The White House Conference on the Care of Dependent Children focused on the deleterious effects of the institutionalization of dependent and neglected children. Members of the Conference emphasized the importance of family and home life and incorporated this ideology into their proposals, which included the establishment of the Foster Care Program, the formation of the Federal Children’s Bureau within the Interior Department, regular inspection of foster care homes by the state, and education and medical care for foster children.

1919 Conference
The second Conference, the White House Conference on Standards of Child Welfare, took place in 1919. The year 1919 had been designated by President Wilson as the “Children’s Year” (at the suggestion of the Federal Children’s Bureau). The 1919 Conference involved a series of meetings in both Washington D.C, and, subsequently, in eight cities throughout the United States. Committees of five to eight members were formed to determine minimum standards in the areas of child labor, health care for children and mothers, and aid for children with special needs. In 1921, the Sheppard-Towner Bill was passed, which gave the Federal Government the task of overseeing and helping to finance the development of facilities dedicated to improving the health of pregnant women and infant children.

1930 Conference
Preparations for the White House Conference on Child Health and Protection began in July 1929 when President Hoover announced the purpose of the Conference: “to study the present status of the health and well-being of the children of the United States and its possessions; to report what is being done; to recommend what ought to be done and how to do it.” From July 1929 to November 1930, a total of 1,200 experts in seventeen committees overseen by four departments – Medical Service, Public Health and Administration, Education and Training, and the Handicapped – worked to compile research and documents on their respective areas. The Children’s Charter offered nineteen proposals on the requirements for a child’s education, health, welfare, and protection. The final reports from the Conference were published in 1932 and was 10,511 pages. The American Pediatric Society emerged from this Conference.

1939 Conference
The 1939 Conference on Children in a Democracy was prepared by three committees: the Planning Committee, the Committee on Organization, and the Committee on Report. The Conference centered on accumulating research on children in the 1930s, as well as establishing a program of action designed to treat the needs of children in the 1940s. The Conference resulted in ninety-eight proposals. An important product of the Conference was the establishment of the 1943 Emergency, Maternity, and Infant Care Program, the largest medical care program instituted by the United States up to that time. The program provided free medical, nursing, and hospital services for mothers during their prenatal and delivery periods, as well as 6 weeks postpartum.

1950 Conference
The Mid-Century White House Conference on Children and Youth, for the first time, invited youth to attend the Conference, and over four hundred young people arrived in Washington, D.C. The state committees created 1,000 local committees. Each state submitted a report to be incorporated into the proceedings of the White House Conference. Taking place against a backdrop of the Korean and cold wars, more than 460 organizations joined federal, state, and local government focusing on the moral and mental health of children in the 1950s.

1960 Conference
The Golden Anniversary White House Conference on Children and Youth included seven thousand delegates. The 1960 Conference, held from March 27 through April 2 was “to promote opportunities for children and youth to realize their full potential for a creative life in freedom and dignity.” More than six million citizens participated in preparatory activities: state and local committees were formed and reports drafted, such as “The States’ Report on Children and Youth.” The growth of the White House Conference necessitated the formation of 210 work groups, 175 more than the 1950 Conference. President Eisenhower delivered an address that highlighted the importance of the Conference at its Golden Anniversary. One of its recommendations included the elevation of the Children’s Bureau to agency status within the Department of Health, Education and Welfare (HEW).

1970 Conference
The 1970 White House Conference on Children and Youth held from December 13 through December 18, was divided into three stages – a conference devoted to children ages one to thirteen and a second conference, organized and led by youth, themselves, on children ages fourteen to twenty four. Participants in the preparatory process ranged from youth to various professionals, to parents, and community workers. Outcomes of the 1970 Conference included the establishment of state councils designed to monitor the status of children in the state, as well as the creation of a new Subcommittee on Children and Youth chaired by Senator Walter Mondale. The Nixon Administration followed up with a $300,000 budget request to help carry out recommendations at the state level.

1981 and 1993
Funding of three million dollars was provided for a Conference on Children and Youth to be held in 1981. Instead of a national conference, funding was dispersed to the states with 47 states holding their own separate conferences. No formal White House event was held. In 1990, as part of a reauthorization of Head Start, authorizing language allowed a White House Conference on Children and Youth to be held in 1993 -1994 but no Conference resulted.

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