By Tim Leeds
Stand for Children has grown to a national membership organization dedicated to giving children across the country the opportunity to grow up educated, healthy and safe since its first rally four years ago.
Stand for Children began in Washington, D.C. on June 1, 1996, when more than 300,000 gathered at the Lincoln Memorial to show support for children's issues. They organized to voice their opinion that prisons and prison construction were a higher priority than preschools or school construction, and that leaders making life harder for working families were trying to tell them about family values.
The first Stand for Children Day was the largest gathering for children in American history. Today, the organization works to provide a voice for children and families to ensure that communities and state and national decision makers treat their needs as a priority. With more and more decisions affecting children are being made at the state and local level, the organization tries to ensure that decision makers know what citizens' priorities and desires are.
Stand for Children provides a quarterly newsletter to its members discussing current issues and providing information about what member communities are doing to promote and improve children's issues. Their website also provides information about issues, stories from the newsletter, links to other organizations and to political leaders.
The Cyber Stand For Children, running from May 22 to June 12, is the online campaign allowing people throughout the country to learn about the organization and about children's issues. It also allows them to comment on and express their support for the issues.
Some of the issues Stand for Children is trying to raise awareness about include health insurance for children. In 1999, the U.S. Census Bureau reported that 11.9 million children, 18 years of age and younger, were uninsured in 1998. That is 15.6 percent of all children at the time. Additional information about the issue of child healthcare is available at the Cyber Stand for Children website.
The program also deals with ensuring quality child care across the nation. More than 40 states and Washington, D.C. do not require a single hour of early childhood training for child care providers prior to serving children in their homes, according to The Center to Career Development in Early Care and Education, published in 1998. A link to information on this issue is available on the Cyber Stand website.
The website also has links to issues on education and violence related to children, as well as providing activities for children to participate in out of school. Some of the issues cited by the organization include a report from the Children's Defense Fund (CDF) in 1999 that students who spend one to four hours per week in extracurricular activities are 49 percent less likely to use drugs and 37 percent less likely to become teen parents than students who do not participate in extracurricular activities. An example from that report also shows that in the summertime, when Phoenix basketball courts and other recreational facilities are kept open until 2 a.m., police calls reporting juvenile crimes drop by as much as 55 percent. A Department of Education report from 1998 is also cited as saying some 6,093 students were expelled during the 1996-97 academic school year for bringing firearms or explosives to school.
Another issue is providing nutritious food to children. Information indicates that low-income children who participated in a breakfast program do better in standardized tests and have lower absenteeism and tardiness.
The organization shows that 1998, the U.S. Conference on Mayor's survey of homelessness in 30 cities found that children under the age of 18 accounted for 25 percent of the urban homeless population, and that adult people that help children are of great benefit. A U.S. Department of Justice report in 1999 showed that young people in mentoring programs are 46 percent less likely to start using drugs, 27 percent less likely to start drinking, and 33 percent less likely to hit someone, skip fewer classes, get better grades, and have better relationships with others.
To find out more about Stand For Children, visit the Cyber Stand for Children site at www.stand.org.