This year, the Children’s Defense Fund, which organized the widely publicized Stand for Children event, is telling people to stay home.
Local Stand for Children events, scheduled for June 1, are being organized nationwide, with all 50 states represented. The focus of this year’s demonstrations will be child health.
“It’s time for us to end the national disgrace of being the world’s leader in health technology and letting children go with untreated health problems,” Marian Wright Edelman, the president of the Washington-based CDF, said during a recent conference call with reporters.
Rallies, health fairs, and marches are among the more than 300 local events that have been planned. And because June 1 falls on a Sunday, organizers expect local church congregations to use the Stand for Children theme in their services or to say special prayers for children. Schools and museums are also participating.
Most of the local gatherings are being organized by “children’s action teams,” which have been forming since last year’s event. They are supported by the national Stand for Children Organization, directed by Jonah Edelman, Ms. Edelman’s son. (“From Summer Project Is Born Grassroots-Organizing Career,” March 19, 1997.) The teams have focused on a wide range of concerns, such as the supply of affordable child care, the impact of welfare reform, and the adequacy of playgrounds.
Between May 25 and June 7, Internet users can also join in a virtual Stand for Children, where they can find out about events in their communities, learn more about children’s health needs, and participate in chat sessions.
Jonah Edelman is also hoping to organize an e-mail pledge campaign, in which a sponsor will contribute a specified amount of money for every message sent. The money will go into a college-scholarship fund for youths who are working to overcome difficult circumstances.
Although the purpose of Stand for Children is not to lobby for any individual piece of legislation, the CDF is strongly supporting a bipartisan child-health-insurance bill co-sponsored by Sens. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass. With proceeds from a proposed 43-cents-per-pack cigarette tax hike, the bill would provide families with vouchers to buy private health insurance for their children.
Supporters of the proposed Child Health Insurance and Lower Deficit Act argue that it also would discourage young people from smoking and, eventually, experimenting with drugs.