NCC: Government shirks duty toward kids

Israeli children place in the middle of Western countries in critical indicators.

poor kids crying 298.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
poor kids crying 298.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Twenty months after a blue-ribbon committee drew up recommendations to put Israel in line with the International Convention on Human Rights for Children, little to nothing has happened. "It's a very important piece of declarations, but it has a very long way to go from the stage of declaration to the stage of practical [implementation]," National Council for the Child (NCC) Director Yitzhak Kadman said on International Children's Day. The occasion, celebrated on November 20, marks the adoption of the UN convention. The Israeli committee of lawyers, judges, and legal scholars deliberated for six years before presenting its proposals in March, 2004. They proposed hundreds of pages of legislation on everything from giving children a role in divorce proceedings to establishing a government body to advance the rights of minors to prohibiting corporal punishment inside and outside the home. While Kadman was critical of the government's lack of follow-through on implementing the convention, he did note a recent improvement when it comes to societal attitudes toward the last issue. He cited a new study which found that 79 percent of the country thinks corporal punishment is wrong under any circumstance, as opposed to just 25% who felt that way nine years ago. "It's a real revolution," he said. "It's a positive turning point for children." In addition to the public opinion poll Kadman referred to, the Central Bureau of Statistics released a host of date in honor of the day. One third of Israel's population is under the age of 18, its report found. Of those minors, 16 percent live in homes where no one is employed; the number jumps to 35% in single-parent families. In general, Israel places in the middle of developed countries when it comes to statistics regarding children's level of education, criminal activity or health indicators, according to the NCC. "The middle is good enough if you're at the theater. The middle's not good enough for our children," said NCC's Director of Resource Development Elizabeth Levy. Her organization is pushing the government to restore a host of budget cuts it sees as hurting children, from decreases in funding for child allowances to health services and education. "All the things we do shouldn't be instead of the government," Levy said. "The government has responsibilities." One positive statistic is the most children (90.5% of Jewish children and 95.9% of Arab children) live with two parents, a much higher rate than most developed countries. "It's very positive," said Kadman. "I'm very happy that children in Israel aren't like the children in the United States, that they have a father and mother." The US and many European countries have significantly greater rates of single-parent families, according to Kadman. According to the CBS, the most popular name for Jewish girls born in 2004 was Noa; for boys it was Ori.