Edelman Urges Health Care Coverage For All Children

April 30, 2009

By Linda Bloom*

April 27, 2009 | STAMFORD, Conn. (UMNS)

In 2002, United Methodist Women delivered thousands of postcards to Capitol Hill calling for affordable day care for working parents.


Nearly 7,000 women sent the cards after hearing Marian Wright Edelman, founder and president of the Children's Defense Fund, speak at the Women's Assembly in Philadelphia the month before.


That action and others like it have formed the basis of a long partnership between the Children's Defense Fund and United Methodist Women, Edelman told directors of the Women's Division, United Methodist Board of Global Ministries, on April 26 during the division's spring meeting.


"We would not have a child care block grant without United Methodist Women," she said.


But the work is far from over in terms of establishing a comprehensive child health care program in the United States, said Edelman, whose latest book is "The Sea is So Wide and My Boat is So Small: Charting a Course for the Next Generation."


"Now we need to go for it all," she declared. "This is the year we're going to come together and get every child covered."

Economic downturn

Noting that more than 2,200 American children are born uninsured every day, the Children's Defense Fund has established the Health Coverage for All Children Campaign as an effort to guarantee comprehensive health coverage for all children and pregnant women.


"I just need United Methodist Women to stand with me to say all children should have benefits," she said.


Because of the economic downturn, individual states already have cut children's health programs, according to Edelman, who warned that the government needs "to resist efforts to help the new poor and leave the old poor behind."


A broader concern of Edelman's is the burgeoning U.S. prison population and the relationship between society's lack of support for children and its prison population.


"Our states are spending, on average, three times more per prisoner than on public school pupils," she told the Women's Division directors. "We're the largest jailer in the world."


The risk, especially for ethnic minority children, is high. "A black boy who was born in 2001 has a one in three chance of going to prison," she said, adding that a Latino boy has a one in five chance to do the same.

Adopting families

The fund's "Cradle to Prison Pipeline Campaign" is aimed at reducing detention and incarceration by increasing preventive support, including access to quality early childhood development, better schools and comprehensive health and mental health coverage.


Beyond legislative action, adults need to step up and provide moral guidance and spiritual support for children, according to Edelman. Churches need to open their doors and once again become a safe haven, she added.


If every church congregation in the United States adopted one or two families to care for, she suggested, "we would clean out the child welfare system."


*Bloom is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in New York.