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Janae is a smart and capable twenty-one-year-old black woman who has lived in the same low-income urban neighborhood all her life. She graduated from the local public high school and received grants to take a few community college classes, but after dealing with the frustrations of unreliable transportation to campus and trying to manage many more urgent priorities, she decided to put classes on hold and focus on making money. She shares an apartment with her mother, who suffers from lupus and is on long-term disability, and her younger brother and sister, and works as a part-time cashier at a discount store down the street from their apartment. Janae sometimes dates men from the neighborhood, but is cautious about letting anyone in. Her father has been gone since she was a small child, and her mother has had a number of boyfriends, a few who were violent with her, one who was violent with Janae and her siblings, and one who touched Janae inappropriately. Most of the time, Janae feels responsible for taking care of her mother, brother, and sister – she uses her mother’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Plan (SNAP) card to buy groceries at the discount store where she works or at the corner grocery, and she makes sure there is always food at home. She promises her family that she will always be there when they need her, but she dreams of going back to school and having new experiences and a career that makes her feel proud. Janae worries a lot about what she’s missing, and the worrying sometimes makes her tired and depressed, and at other times it makes her want to go out and party and forget about all her responsibilities.
This concluding chapter ties together key themes presented throughout this volume, the first book on social justice for children and youth that takes an international perspective. The primary conclusion for this work is that there are significant problems with social injustice for children and youth all around the world, in less-developed and developed nations. This is a foundational human rights issue that should be prioritized in all communities; yet in reality progress has been very limited. While there is some emerging literature, important guiding policy documents, and a number of networks trying to deepen this work, there is a relative dearth of coordinated efforts taking this challenge head on, to assure that policies and practices build a linked agenda that promotes wellness for children and youth, while assuring social justice for them.
Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) youth face many challenges in today’s global environment. In addition to the expansive range of attitudes, social pressures, and unique personal development, LGBTQ youth are often faced with issues of social injustice. In many parts of the world, continued discrimination and punishment occurs against LGBTQ individuals and the lack of legal protection is an extra burden for young people in an already oppressive environment. Access to proper developmental support and psychological support can be limited or inappropriate for many of these young people. Inclusive legislation, education, and truthful information relevant to LGBTQ issues can help reduce the consequences of stress seen by many LGBTQ youth. Legislative and social advocacy to reduce stigma and provide healthy, supportive development of LGBTQ individuals are additional ways of reducing social injustice.
According to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the goal of a social justice approach for children is to ensure that children “are better served and protected by justice systems, including the security and social welfare sectors.” Despite this worthy goal, the UN documents how children are rarely viewed as stakeholders in justice rules of law; child justice issues are often dealt with separate from larger justice and security issues; and when justice issues for children are addressed, it is often through a siloed, rather than a comprehensive approach. This volume actively challenges the current youth social justice paradigm through terminology and new approaches that place children and young people front and center in the social justice conversation. Through international consideration, children and young people worldwide are incorporated into the social justice conversation.
This introductory chapter presents the goal of social justice for children and young people to ensure that children are served and protected within their countries and communities. Despite this important goal, children and young people are often overlooked as critical social justice stakeholders with adults and other country experiences prioritized instead. When social justice issues among young people are addressed, it is often through specific interventions rather than taking a comprehensive approach to social justice for children on a macro level. The chapter discusses the importance of children and young people’s involvement as critical stakeholders in systemic social justice reform. Prior models of social justice are critiqued and a call for a contemporary, global approach to social justice for children and young people is warranted. The chapter introduces the parameters of the volume that follows and how it takes an international approach that includes the presentation of case studies from low- and lower-middle-income countries, as well as upper-middle- and high-income countries as per the World Bank’s 2018–2019 new country classifications.