The CRC vs. Parental Rights
It seems that the Convention on the Rights of the Child(CRC) is back on the blog front again lately… With both Smrt Lernins posting about it and Homeschooling a Texas Tornado and a Pre-School Tag-A-Long, I thought I’d weigh in with my thoughts. This is not a new post; I’ve had it as a draft since July 2010 and just have never finished it. There are parts of the CRC that I agree with but I also think it is seriously flawed. Anything, once written in stone, can be manipulated and I see vast, gaping holes in the CRC, and definitely with various advocate’s interpretation of them. So here’s my previously unpublished post, updated in a few spots to allow for current insights:
While looking for picture for the ‘parents as experts‘ post, I came across this blog debating the CRC vs. Parental Rights. Now, keep in mind that the Parental Rights site/group seems to be made up primarily of right-wing Christian organizations and while I am decidedly not in agreement with everything that group espouses, I am interested in the debate.
My intent in writing the ‘parents as experts’ post was originally to promote parental confidence and empowerment in the face of friends/family/pediatricians/behavioral therapists who disagree or criticize your parenting style or methods (particularly if the naysayer is authoritarian or strong disciplinarian and you’ve chosen a route that is… not), but the issues raised by the CRC and the Opposition are interesting, and I believe that they deserve my attention (and resulting lengthy commentary).
Although there are many, many points that I’d like to address, the ones that stand out glaringly in such a way as to create the beginnings of a headache right behind my left eye are points number 1 & 3, which read:
1. A child’s “right to be heard” would allow him (or her) to seek governmental review of every parental decision with which the child disagreed. Firstly, the frequently [sic] with which children seek government review of their parents’ decisions will likely be extremely rare. But that point aside, why is this wrong? If parents believe what they are doing is right, then why should they worry about it? Unless parents are being abusive, then this shouldn’t be a problem. And really, this boils down to parents rights vs. children’s rights.
My question is, how do you know that children calling for reviews of their parents’ decisions will be rare? I’m also curious if this blogger has any idea how introducing such a standard into practice could impact families. Even little decisions could be called into question – sure, that’s unlikely on a large-scale, but suppose someone makes a complaint about you to CPS. Upon investigation, it comes to light that your child ‘disagrees’ with many things that you, as a parent, have deemed to be right and good and in their best interests. That possibility is by no means uncommon, but with the weight of the CRC behind them, this could easily lead to long-term interference in your family’s dynamic.
‘Why is this wrong’, we’re asked? First of all, just because you, the parent, have research and professional opinions on your side does NOT mean that you’re going to be proven right or allowed to continue as you were when under investigation by ‘the authorities’. Remember that they always have their own professionals who have opinions which may very well conflict with yours. Child protective organizations nationwide have cases where normal parents – GOOD parents who simply do things differently than the mainstream – have had their decisions called into question, been put under investigation and had their children removed and traumatized because some overzealous social worker or opinionated old-school judge disagreed with the parent’s decisions.
As a parent, there are decisions to make every single day. Sometimes you’re going to do the best/right thing, sometimes you’re going to make a mistake – but few parents deliberately make bad decisions out of malice. On virtually every issue there are two sides to consider. Then you have to weigh the information against incoming advice from well-meaning friends and family, and take into consideration your own biases before coming to a decision. In many cases, even having clear-cut medical reasoning and sound scientific grounding on your side is not always enough to combat mainstream corporate America with its death grip on dictating what is normal and acceptable and therefore ‘best’. If you doubt that, start doing some research on any controversial parenting topic and you’ll see what I mean.
Giving a child the power to question a parent’s right to decide and make decisions for themselves is ludicrous. Children do not have the knowledge or life experience to make the kinds of decisions that parents have to make every day. Parents are responsible for shaping the whole person of their child – nurturing and molding an essentially self-centered being into a productive and functional member of society. Children do not possess the forethought to see how today’s actions impact tomorrow’s results and cannot possibly be expected to weigh the required information needed to make those kinds of decisions for themselves. That’s more than many parents are capable of, which is why policies like the CRC sound like a good idea to some - to save children from incompetent or under-educated parents. Why not address the actual ‘problem’ rather than tear down the structure of the family in an attempt to fix it?
3. The best interest of the child principle would give the government the ability to override every decision made by every parent if a government worker disagreed with the parent’s decision. Um, yeah. You know why? As flawed as governments are, as stupid and biased as politicians can be, then tend to be somewhat influenced by experts in the area of child development when it comes to this stuff. Parents on the other hand can vary. A lot. There’s no requirements to be a parent other than being able to reproduce. Some parents don’t have a clue. You need a license to drive a car or to fish, but there’s no “skill testing question” you need to pass in order to parent. Some people with kids are dumbasses. Sometimes it should be up to social workers and child psychologists to interfere when the parents are doing things that will harm the child. This is one of the best points in the document.
Um, actually… NO. And here’s why:
While I agree that in some cases it might be appropriate for a government or other authority to interfere for the benefit of the child, giving any ole government worker the authority to intervene simply because they don’t agree with the parent’s decision is playing with FIRE. In fact, there are already safeguards in place within the existing agencies to protect the safety of the child – pediatricians, hospital employees, teachers, school nurses all are obligated to report suspicion of abuse or neglect to the authorities who then investigate – and even the limited powers that those agencies can be and have been exploited because of a mere difference of opinion. The system is by no means perfect, and children do fall through the cracks, but as tragic as that is, the answer to this problem is not punishing or discriminating against parents as a class of society.
You have heard the adage about opinions, right? Even the most pedestrian governmental worker can have an opinion. They may think that they know best when in reality they have little or no experience with children or child-rearing and they certainly cannot style themselves as authorities on your particular child. Giving them the power to usurp parental authority without clear, documented and proven danger or harm to the child’s physical, emotional or educational being is wrong, wrong, wrong.
For example, take the decision not to vaccinate. That’s a touchy and highly controversial topic that most educated parents labor over. Even the experts are divided on the topic. The bottom line is that as the parent, that is MY decision to make. If my decision conflicts with the opinions of others – of doctors and scientists even, is it the wrong decision? There is ample evidence on either side of that equation, so who gets the final say on whether or not I am neglecting or harming my children by not vaccinating? I feel that vaccinations are toxic and that the risks associated with getting them overshadow the as yet unproven potential benefits of getting them. I have one child whom I believe to be negatively affected by the few vaccinations he did have, and I will FIGHT to ensure that his body is not further used as a guinea pig by the entities in government who are supposed to put his needs and best interests first but don’t.
I take issue with the statement, “As flawed as governments are, as stupid and biased as politicians can be, then tend to be somewhat influenced by experts in the area of child development when it comes to this stuff.” In a world where we’re constantly bombarded with news coverage about how studies on this medical topic or that public health issue are funded by big pharma, or how policies are enacted to prevent lawsuits, or how mothers are arrested for refusing to submit to invasive medical procedures because a judge disagrees with her decision… I think it is patently obvious that governments and their agents are more influenced by money and kickbacks than they are by The Facts(tm).
My decision not to vaccinate was not one that was made lightly, or on a whim. It was a carefully and painstakingly researched decision made after long hours of contemplation, studiously examining the material available and consulting with professionals who are able to debate rationally on the subject. Because this is such a highly controversial subject, my decision is one that I have had to defend to ‘authorities’ who disagree with me. At the end of the day, my base argument is that THIS IS MY CHILD. I GET TO MAKE THE DECISIONS REGARDING HIS CARE. PERIOD. That’s my ace in the hole when dealing with people in authority positions who have a differing opinion from mine. My point in this illustration is that even when you have experts on your side, that may not be enough. I daresay that I know more about the dangers and risks associated with vaccination than your average WIC or Medicaid employee. Yet as governmental authorities, would they have the power to override my decisions, despite my superior knowledge on the subject in general and personal history of my child? The CRC certainly puts that out there as a possibility.
I think one of my main objections to the CRC is that it sets the stage, even invites the government into the family. I don’t think that’s a place the gov’t has any right to be. Personal freedom is something that American treasure – it’s a basic right that we all believe we possess and are conditioned to fight for. The CRC seems to give the child ‘rights’ above and beyond basic HUMAN rights. I think human rights cover them plenty. The US has the largest scale abuse of the legal system in the world – the CRC puts avenues in place for children to legally question every move that their parents make – which ties up already overworked caseworkers and brings them into a situation where they have no business being. Children could be removed from homes when there is nothing more than a disagreement and the CRC only gives more weight to those kids of cases. We’ll end up spending millions in taxpayer money to handle these cases (because no child I know can afford a lawyer – yet one must be provided to see to the child’s interests in the debate). There are also the costs of foster care and the wages of the additional employees to oversee each and every complaint.
I see the CRC as setting the stage for pitting parents against children. We’re supposed to be promoting family unity, not declaring all out war on parents. It seems to me that a better use for all that money would be in founding public education programs and parenting support groups, and ensuring that the places that parents already go to seek information and support (like their doctors) are giving evidence/research-based and non-biased information. Take steps to ensure access to information and protection from advertising, like starting with comprehensive sex-education in schools and banning the distribution of formula samples on maternity wards at hospitals and kickbacks to doctors for medication promotions that pharmaceutical companies are using to taint the information pool.
As for the religious components… it is a parent’s responsibility to share their beliefs with their child – to direct and guide. Yes, some take that to the extreme, but again – unless there is abuse and the child can be moved to a safe environment, then the child WILL eventually grow up and have the opportunity to make different choices. You can’t dictate every aspect of the population’s life and as a country that was essentially founded on Christian piers, most of our citizens are deeply rooted in their faith and want to share that with their kids. Some religions go so far as to teach that their way is the only way to salvation. Some faiths DO teach – as tenets of their faith – that people of other religions will not share the same glorious future; some teach that people who do not share their faith will be destroyed in a holy war. That’s not hate, exactly, but that type of mindset doesn’t breed tolerance, acceptance or help one set of people peaceably coexist with another – and that can be counted under the CRC’s anti-hate policy… which comes very close to if not treading all over freedom of religion… which is one of the cornerstones of the United States. While I personally disagree with that kind of mindset and dogmatic religious thinking, I do respect the RIGHT of any American to believe as they choose. I don’t ally myself with any organized religion, but I do believe that parents should have the right to freedom of religion and belief, and to enforce that in their own households.
I will say that I vehemently disagree with the notion that opposing the CRC has anything to do with belief in ‘owning’ our children. I think that is a rather simplistic viewpoint that does not take into consideration the many, many ways in which the CRC’s points can be mishandled or used against parents. My opposition comes into play because of my deeply held sense of responsibility to do what is best for my children, especially when my decisions are questioned by authority figures. I think that the majority of parents feel duty and responsibility towards their children – obligation to them and in that, my fellow bloggers and I are in agreement – having children is a monumental responsibility that should not be undertaken lightly.
I don’t know any parents who had children to get something out of it. There is also a sense of interdependency in virtually all of the families I know – I have yet to sense a need for liberation of the child from the tyranny of parental authority among most families. The CRC seems to me to set parents up for attack and to foster the idea that parents exist only by the grace of authority and a warning to overstep those bounds at your own risk.
I think that very few people see children as chattel – comparing the state of children to women or black people or Chinese people in the past is inaccurate because grown women and African-Americans and the Chinese are fully functioning beings. Children would not survive without caregivers – without parents to set limits that children do not have the mental skills or life experience to see the benefit of. Women, slaves and oppressed peoples have never been less intelligent or less capable than their ‘keepers’, and though children may be intelligent, few would argue that children have the same level of common sense, experience and forethought/benefit of hindsight that adults have. The same holds true for such things as medical treatment – not elective procedures that can be put off until the child is an adult, but for life-saving treatment - you betcha that is both my right and responsibility to determine the best course of action for my child’s treatment. Neither ‘right’ nor ‘responsibility’ of that statement can be over-emphasized - they are equally important and both should be minded with the utmost care.
Regarding DaMomma’s post, her ‘Parent’s Bill of No-Rights’ was posted in regard to a TN proposal that would give virtually all divorced parents 50/50 custody of (and therefore ‘rights’ to) their child. I think that using that list in defense of the CRC is misleading – when parents divorce, there are many, many issues at play and often the competency of one parent or both is called into question. In that situation, you’re already inviting gov’t into your family. The CRC intrudes where no invitation was issued and interference is unwelcome.
That said, and thought I agree with many, I also disagree with some of DaMomma’s points; I absolutely believe that I am entitled to respect – both as a parent and as a PERSON. I would be a poor parent indeed if I did not teach my children to respect others – starting with the members of their own family. It goes hand-in-hand with the idea that respect is earned, not freely given; I teach best by modeling. I respect myself, I respect my husband, and I respect my kids. In turn, I expect – and rightfully so – respect from all of those people in return. Additionally, I absolutely have the right to see my own children. Unless I have done something to them that is in such disregard for their well-being so as to require the removal of my parental rights – I absolutely have the right to see and care for my own child. Divorcing parents may need to defend that right in the light of unjust attacks on their character by a vindictive ex-spouse, but most parents aren’t, and should not be, subject to that process. Setting up government in place to superseded that right is madness.
Again, I go back to thinking that money would be well-spent in social educational and support programs that are designed to provide unbiased information – all of the information, from all sides to review and implement according to their own philosophy. Parents who perpetuate the mistakes that previous generations have made do so not because they don’t love their children, but because they HONESTLY BELIEVE that it is the best or only way to properly raise their children. I am here to tell you that I have personally seen the difference that education and support can make in a mother’s mindset and world-view. Seeing a mother who had an elective c-section, circ’d her baby boy in the hospital and formula fed make completely opposite choices after being regularly exposed to mothers with different ways of doing things reinforces my belief that access to information and support is the key – not mandating laws which seem good on the surface but open doors to the destruction of the family as we know it. I don’t think that opposition to the CRC has anything to do with ‘child ownership’. I think opposing the CRC has everything to do with the autonomy of the family and living up to the many, heavy responsibilities that come along with those rights.