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NEWSLETTER
May 1999

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The National Children's Agenda Moving Into Action
For Children and Youth

On May 7th federal, provincial and territorial governments1 made a public commitment to Canada's children, youth and their families with the signing of an agreement called "A National Children's Agenda." The agreement sends the strong message that governments are getting serious about making children a priority. This is only a first step, however: it needs to be followed by concrete action. We all have an important role to play in holding governments accountable for making their words a reality for children, youth and families.

What is the National Children's Agenda?
The goal of the agenda agreement is "children who are healthy, safe and secure, successful at learning, and socially engaged and responsible." In the agreement, governments recognize the need for "supporting the role of parents and strengthening families; enhancing early child development; improving economic security for families; providing early and continuous learning experiences; fostering strong adolescent development; and creating supportive, safe and violence-free communities." In the document, there is also a recognition that "Governments believe that developing a National Children's Agenda as a shared vision can enhance our collective efforts to improve children's lives."

The agreement is a result of complex negotiations between federal and provincial/territorial governments to better coordinate the patchwork nature of programs and services for children and youth over the long term. Earlier this year, the signing of the social union agreement opened the door for coordinated approaches to social policy. The National Children's Agenda has the potential to lead to a new spirit of commitment which could result in positive change for today's families. It is critical that governments be called upon to honour their public commitment on the signing of this agreement through leadership and action.

What is the National Children's Alliance?
{put in your organization name here} is a member of the National Children's Alliance, a group of 25 national organizations working to promote the implementation of the National Children's Agenda. Together we represent hundreds of thousands of people in our communities who care about and advocate for children, youth and their families. Many members of the Alliance work in the areas of social services, education, recreation and health. {put your organization name here} is working with our colleagues in the Alliance to develop recommendations for policy directions. Over the next year, members of the Alliance plan to continue working together as one strong voice to ensure that concrete action happens to support the National Children's Agenda agreement.

The work on the National Children's Agenda is just beginning. There is not yet a public policy framework nor any specific government spending commitments. The Alliance will be working hard to ensure that governments start building a concrete foundation leading to a federal budget. Medicare was built over time with strong government leadership, so too will the National Children's Agenda. This is a long-term process. Moving into action is the next step and ensuring that governments keep up the momentum is our challenge.

Those of us who work directly within our communities know firsthand about the gaps in services and programs. Cuts over the past few years in health, education and social services have taken a serious toll. All levels of government need to show - with more than words - that children and youth are a priority. As we enter the new millennium, we should ask all levels of government to make a downpayment on the National Children's Agenda in their first budgets of the new millennium. The research is clear - all families need adequate income and services. Year 2000 budgets should include measures that improve income security and services for families, regardless of their source of income. As a first step in a sustainable commitment, the federal government should lead the way with a "Year 2000 Children's Budget."

But it goes beyond that - a long-term approach with a comprehensive strategy is needed. For too long, Canada has been without a coordinated approach to supporting families. We have tremendous potential to build upon the momentum and build a public policy framework to deal with the urgent needs of families. The National Children's Agenda must be a collaborative effort with the joint leadership of all levels of government. The implementation of the agenda at the community level will be stronger with the collective action of governments, the voluntary sector, private sector, communities and individuals. We have the opportunity to work together with governments as they take leadership in making a difference for children, youth and their families.

How can we make it happen?
Our challenge is to ensure that children and their families become a government priority - and we need your help. A consultation process on "A National Children's Agenda" will be taking place during the summer months. It is critical that Canadians speak up for children by supporting "A National Children's Agenda."

It is up to you - make a difference for the children and families in Canada! It's important! We need to make sure that our governments know that Canadians support policies and programs that make children a priority!

REGISTER YOUR SUPPORT FOR A NATIONAL CHILDREN'S AGENDA

  • Call 1-800-361-6392 --- Ask about consultations in your community.
  • Connect --- on www.children-enfants.org - Read the documents and provide your feedback.
  • Write --- to National Children's Agenda, 280 Albert Street, 10th Floor, Ottawa, Ontario, K1P 5G8 - Urge governments to move into action.
  • Distribute --- Order multiple copies of the documents and circulate them.
  • Attend --- local consultations - Share your knowledge about supporting children and youth in your community.
  • Network --- Get other organizations involved.
  • Organize --- Host events to discuss the needs of children and youth in your community.
  • Encourage Others --- Write a letter to the editor of your local paper or even arrange a media event.
  • Get Political --- Write or call your politicians. Remember that your federal, provincial, territorial and local politicians are all involved.

Children and youth need many voices to speak out with them.
Our challenge is to ensure that the issues that affect them stay front and centre.
Speak out about the importance of making children and families a priority.
The National Children's Agenda - Moving Into Action!

We will continue to be involved with our colleagues in advocating for A National Children's Agenda.

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1. Although Quebec agrees with the objectives of the National Children's Agenda, it did not sign the agreement

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