Provincial Advocate urges Ontario to adopt lessons from "father of children's rights"

TORONTO, Dec. 10, 2015 /CNW/ - Ontario's Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth today released My Life as a Child of Janusz Korczak, the Father of Children's Rights – The Biography of Shlomo Nadel, by Lea Lipiner. The book launch, which featured an exhibit of photos of life in Dr. Korczak's orphanage, took place at an event co-hosted by the Provincial Advocate's Office and UNICEF Canada in recognition of International Human Rights Day. 

As child welfare systems continue to struggle with models for institutional care, Shlomo Nadel's powerful remembrances and photos of life in Dr. Korczak's orphanage (1927 -1935) paint a portrait of what is possible – even during war time – when caregivers centre themselves on the voices of young people. Nadel's experience stands in stark contrast to the experience of children in Ontario's child welfare system today.

"There continues to be a gap between the various frameworks, action plans, policies and legislation and the realities facing young people under the province's care with many feeling alone and invisible," said Irwin Elman, the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth.  "We can and must do better by young people. This book provides valuable teachings from the past on how we can treat children and youth with love and respect, and support them to ensure that they reach their full potential."

Dr. Korczak was a pediatrician, author and champion of child rights. He is considered to be the prime inspiration of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) - the most widely adopted human rights convention in the world. Today, the human rights treaty has been ratified by 196 countries, including Canada.

Through the 1920s and 1930s until his death in 1942, Korczak focused on the health and welfare of orphans and created an orphanage in Warsaw, Poland that was built on a unique model of care that resembled a children's republic.

Early in 2016, the Ontario Residential Service Review Panel, appointed by the Ministry of Children and Youth Services, is expected to release its report and recommendations for the province's child and youth residential service system.

"With the province's review of the residential service system underway, we have an opportunity to make a fundamental difference in the way that we support young people in the province's residential services system," said Elman. "It takes leadership, courage and a commitment to place children at the centre. I encourage the province, the expert panel and service providers to learn from Korczak's teachings and use them as a tool for change. I urge them to ask Korczak's question, 'How do we love a child?'"

The book was launched in partnership with the Janusz Korczak Association of Canada.

A copy of the book is available for download (free of charge) on the Provincial Advocate's website at: http://provincialadvocate.on.ca/

About the Office of the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth
The Office of the Provincial Advocate reports directly to the Legislature and provides an independent voice for children and youth, including children with special needs and First Nations children. The advocates receive and respond to concerns from children, youth and families who are seeking or receiving services under the Child and Family Services Act and the Education Act (Provincial and Demonstration Schools). The Office is guided by the principles of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and has a strong commitment to youth involvement. For more information, visit: www.provincialadvocate.ca. For updates, read the Advocate's Blog and follow us on https://www.youtube.com/user/ProvincialAdvocate/featuredTwitter and Facebook.

Quick Facts

  • In 2013-14, there were 7,000 children and youth who were wards of the province, living in foster care or group homes.
  • There were 1,000 children who were on the path to becoming Crown wards in 2013-14.
  • Each year, more than 19,000 serious occurrences are reported to Ministry officials from children residences (i.e. use of intrusive measures including children placed under physical restraint; use of chemical restraint; assault; missing person reports; charges by police, etc.).
  • Almost half of children and youth (aged 5 to 17) who live in group and foster homes are on psychotropic medication ("behavioral-altering" drug).
  • Numerous reports going back to the mid-1980s recognize that youth leaving care are over-represented in the youth justice, mental health and shelter systems.
  • Less than 44 per cent of youth in care graduate from high school, compared to an 81 per cent graduation rate for the general population.
  • An estimated 43 per cent of homeless youth have previous child welfare involvement and 68 per cent have come from foster homes, group homes and/or a youth center.

Quotes

"Janusz Korczak was ahead of his time. His exceptional work and  ideas concerning the rights and interests of children influenced the drafting of the United Nation Convention on the Rights of the Child – one of the most popular, pro-social and pro-family instruments of international law. . He demanded that the world of adults observe the child's right to respect and love. His famous quote, "There are no children, there are people," is the best example of his fundamental maxim that children are rightful persons and citizens. Shlomo Nadel's biography is a unique testimony of Korczak's life, work and of the hope for peace, justice and equal rights for every human being - both adults and children. Statements given in this book will not let us forget Korczak's role and the importance of his outstanding work as an advocate for children's rights." -Grzegorz Morawski, Consul General. Consulate General of the Republic of Poland

"Dr. Korczak's work and writings as a paediatrician and director of orphanages for 30 years have become inextricably connected with both the theory and the practice of child care and education and his book, How to Love a Child, continues to have relevance and important insights today." - Jerry Nussbaum, President, the Janusz Korczak Association of Canada

"The summer of 1935 when I was obliged to leave the orphanage, was for me similar to the expulsion from the Garden of Eden – a painful uprooting. I had originally reached the orphanage from a background of abject poverty with a very slight chance of surviving in the world. No words can ever express how significant Korczak's orphanage was for a child like me." - Shlomo Nadel, former resident of Dr. Korczak's orphanage

"True educators see their professions as a mission. They believe in the power of education and learning. They are sensitive to the depth of the souls of their pupils and believe in the potential concealed within each and every child. They create optimum conditions under which their pupils can develop strong roots and thrive in a nourishing and fertile environment, towards their own personal development and success. Janusz Korczak was truly such an educator." - Lea Lipiner, educator and author

"Dr. Korczak was a visionary in seeing children as equal and encouraging them to develop to their full potential. For all the systems and processes we need to help implement children's rights, there's little to surpass what is in the heart of a passionate and highly principled individual. We can continue his legacy for children by looking at all legislation and policy through the lens of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the use of structured Child Rights Impact Assessments, which are used internationally and more extensively in some other Canadian jurisdictions." – Marv Bernstein, Chief Policy Advisor, UNICEF Canada.

"The book was inspirational and showed a side of child welfare that I have never seen before…ever! It provides a foundation for where we need to be in the future.  Today's issue is that the child welfare leaders focus on the system, not the child. We are not there yet!" - Sheldon Caruana, Youth Amplifier, Office of the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth

"Through disdain, distrust, and resentment, we do not allow children to organize themselves. With regards to our treatment of children, we do not consult the experts: the children themselves. Children account for a considerable portion of mankind, of the population, of nationals, residents, and citizens. They were always, are now, and will always be, out companions. They are the future." – Chelsea Hopper, Youth Amplifier, Office of the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth

SOURCE Office of the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth

For further information: Media Contact: Office of the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth: Akihiko Tse, Media and Communications Coordinator, (416)-325-5994, akihiko.tse@provincialadvocate.on.ca

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http://provincialadvocate.on.ca

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