Children are Born with Rights
In 1984, I met a woman at an office printer company. We were both there having material copied for adoption organizations and the office manager introduced us. I am a social worker and an adoptive mom and she is a birth mother and an adoptee. We became fast friends as we recognized how much our beliefs meshed even though we come from such diverse adoption experiences. We have remained close friends over the years and she now leads the International Soundex Reunion Registry (ISRR) which has assisted thousands of individuals in reconnecting with lost relatives. Her name is Mary Jo Rillera.
Subsequently, we wrote a book together about a year after we met called, Cooperative Adoption, which shook quite a few people up and pleased many others. It was my foray into open adoptions in a very public fashion.
There are many concepts in the book that I feel were cutting edge in the eighties and are still relevant today. There is one chapter in particular that I love called Children’s Rights. I am quoting from the book in the following paragraphs.
“To understand cooperative adoption (fully open or fully disclosed adoptions are the terms used today), one must see children as people, not possessions. Children are adults in training.”
“There is no magic age where people suddenly acquire rights. Human rights must apply to people of any age even though some rights may seem inappropriate because the infant or toddler is temporarily unable to those exercise rights. If rights are not acknowledged as a natural part of every person’s life, it is difficult to grow up understanding and expecting them. The idea of children having the same rights as adults uncovers many fears and anxieties in those who feel it is their job to protect and control children. These fears become a barrier to children achieving self-determination. Self-determination is a fundamental principle on which all other discussion of rights is built.”
“A child’s potential cannot be assessed when they are viewed as helpless or deprived of their self-determination. Our society often views children as useless except in relation to adult needs. When children were a financial asset to a family because they helped with chores and necessities of survival, there was self determination inherent in the parent-child relationship. Children were participants in their daily lives even as toddlers. Today children are often considered a financial liability and that may be why we have developed a double standard. One set of morals and behaviors is acceptable for adults and the same set is unacceptable for the children. No wonder children have difficultly deciphering what is appropriate.”
“Children become good adults by practicing. They learn from observation and mimicry, which makes a do as I say not as I do attitude uninterpretable to them.”
“The Goal of Children’s Rights is:
–To improve family life — not destroy it
–To make children useful — not helpless
–To enhance the adult world — not diminish it
–To liberate parents — not make them wardens.”
There will be more on this topic in my next article.