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Reimagining Children’s Rights in the US

To identify the key insights or developments described in this article
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Abstract

Importance  The US faces a pivotal moment of opportunity and risk regarding issues affecting children (aged 0-17 years). Although the US remains the only United Nations member state to not have ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), a child rights framework is essential for child health professionals seeking to advance many issues affecting children in the US. The Reimagining Children’s Rights project (2020-2021) conducted an in-depth environmental scan of relevant literature and policy analysis using the Three Horizons design process to assess strategies that could advance the rights and well-being of children in the US. The project was overseen by a steering committee and informed by an advisory committee composed of youth leaders and experts in children’s rights, advocacy, health, law, and a range of child-specific issues (eg, youth justice, early childhood development), who provided expert input on strategic considerations for advancing children’s rights.

Observations  Seven findings about advancing children’s rights in the US are notable, all reflecting current gaps and opportunities for using a whole-child rights framework in the US, even without formal adoption of the CRC. Actionable strategies, tactics, and tools to leverage sustainable change in the multitude of issue areas can advance the current state of children’s rights. High-potential strategies for catalyzing advancement of children’s rights include youth activism, innovations in governance and accountability, legislative action, impact litigation, place-based initiatives, education and public awareness, alignment with other children’s movements, and research. The child rights framework is unifying and adaptive to future unforeseen challenges.

Conclusions and Relevance  Children’s rights provide a powerful, synergistic framework for child health professionals—in partnership with youth and other leaders—to increase equity and protect the rights and well-being of all children in the US.

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Article Information

Accepted for Publication: July 20, 2022.

Published Online: October 24, 2022. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2022.3822

Corresponding Author: Elizabeth Barnert, MD, MPH, MS, Department of Pediatrics, David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, University of California, Los Angeles, 10833 Le Conte Ave, 12-467 Marion Davies Children’s Center, Los Angeles, CA 90095 (ebarnert@mednet.ucla.edu).

Author Contributions: Dr Barnert had full access to all of the data in the study and takes responsibility for the integrity of the data and the accuracy of the data analysis.

Concept and design: All authors.

Acquisition, analysis, or interpretation of data: Barnert, Wright, Choi, Halfon.

Drafting of the manuscript: Barnert, Wright, Choi, Halfon.

Critical revision of the manuscript for important intellectual content: All authors.

Obtained funding: Choi, Halfon.

Administrative, technical, or material support: Barnert, Wright, Choi, Halfon.

Supervision: Barnert, Wright, Halfon.

Conflict of Interest Disclosures: None reported.

Funding/Support: This work was supported by award 77281 from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Role of the Funder/Sponsor: The funder played an advisory role in the design and conduct of the study, collection, management, analysis, and interpretation of the data. The funder had no role in the preparation, review, and approval of the manuscript; nor the decision to submit the manuscript for publication.

Group Information: The members of the Reimagining Children’s Rights Steering Committee, Advisory Committee, and Project Team appear in the Supplement.

Additional Contributions: We thank Kathryn Wehr, MPH, and Jeanette Elstein, MPH, (Robert Wood Johnson Foundation) for their participation and conceptual contributions to the project; Emily Hotez, PhD, and Mary Berghaus, MPH, for assistance in conceptualizing the project, and Efren Aguilar for sharing artistic talent in graphic design, (UCLA Center for Healthier Children, Families, and Communities); and the advocates and scholars who work tirelessly to advance children’s rights, especially youth leaders. No one was financially compensated for their contribution.

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