What will it take to give the children in the United States the chance to reach their full potential? Beyond Rhetoric and Children in Poverty affirm the vision of a society that takes the welfare of its children, and therefore its future, very seriously. Both books acknowledge that our children are in trouble and that it is our responsibility to make them our nation's top priority. Beyond Rhetoric is the final report of the bipartisan National Commission on Children chaired by John D. Rockefeller IV. Their charge was to "assess the status of children and families in the United States and propose new directions for policy and program development...to design an action agenda for the 1990s and to build the necessary public commitment and sense of common purpose to see it implemented".
The heart of the book is its multifaceted policy agenda, which also identifies obstacles to necessary social reforms and makes some general recommendations for overhauling the U.S. social welfare system. At a minimum, for families to gain access to and receive quality services, the system needs to become more easily understood, more comprehensive, and more cohesive. The focus should shift to prevention and early identification, and program managers must support skilled staff in their work.
Whether because of compromises, ideological stances, professional training, or political considerations, several proposals are diluted and weak. For example, the proposals on income security still reflect a residual approach to Aid to Families with Dependent Children benefits and oppose creating a federal jobs program. Even though the health recommendations are weaker than current proposals for a national health plan, dissenting conservative members felt compelled to write a minority recommendation on health that opposes the weakening of morality and parental authority.
The 32 members of the commission, including then-Governor Bill Clinton and Marion Wright Edelman, voted unanimously to accept the "bold blueprint" in this report. However, the antipoverty policies offered in Children in Poverty, edited by developmental psychologist Aletha C. Huston, are much...