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Home > Advocacy > United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) > Frequently Asked Questions


Frequently Asked Questions about the CRC

What is the CRC?

Adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1989, and instituted as international law in 1990, the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) is a widely recognized human rights treaty across the world. The CRC incorporates the full range of human rights--civil, cultural, economic, political, and social--into a single, legally binding document. It was drafted with the specific purpose of promoting and protecting the well-being of all children, regardless of national boundaries.

One hundred ninety-three countries have ratified the CRC. The United States and Somalia are the only two UN nations that have not done so.

The four underlying themes of the CRC are the
  1. right to SURVIVAL
  2. right to DEVELOP to the fullest potential
  3. right to PROTECTION from abuse, neglect, and exploitation
  4. right to PARTICIPATE in family, cultural, and social life
The full text of the Convention on the Rights of the Child is available from the Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights. Additional information is available from UNICEF.

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What would ratification of the CRC mean for the United States?

Policy and legislation will develop in congruence with the convention in America and across the world. The CRC allows for information sharing and learning from best practice. Our leaders could create cost-effective, comprehensive policies and programs that address the specific needs of children and their families. The CRC's reporting requirements would compel our leaders to reassess the state of children's well-being and undertake crucial efforts to improve their lives.

As the United States already has a strong history and tradition in human rights, ratification would demonstrate that child well-being is a recognized national priority. Ratification would enhance the United State's role as an international leader in human rights and allow us to unite in a universal commitment to promote and protect children's best interests. Involvement in the Committee on the Rights of the Child would enable the United States to take an active role in encouraging further progress in other countries that have ratified the CRC.

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How would ratification impact child welfare?

The CRC would have a significant effect on child welfare. Many of the 42 substantive articles in the CRC relate to specific child welfare issues, including foster care (Articles 9 and 20) and adoption (Articles 20, 21), child care (Article 18), family reunification (Article 10), abuse and neglect (Articles 9, 19, 37, and 39), juvenile justice (Article 40), substance abuse prevention (Article 33), sexual exploitation (Article 34), education (Articles 28, 29), health care (Article 23, 24) and freedom of speech (Article 13).

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What is the current status of the CRC in the United States?

In 1995, Madeleine Albright, acting as the U.S. Delegate to the UN, signed the CRC on behalf of President Clinton and the United States. The Convention has not been forwarded to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for consideration, however, due to procedural and political barriers. Procedurally, it is the general policy of the United States to thoroughly evaluate the constitutionality and potential impact of a treaty before giving consent for ratification. Much like our own Constitution, which requires judicial interpretation, the CRC also requires interpretation, which necessitates this type of diligent analysis and examination.

Politically, there are misconceptions as to the Convention's intent, provisions, and potential impact, thus creating obstacles for ratification. Opposition to the treaty continues within Congress and some sectors of the public.

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What is being done to promote ratification of the CRC?

A core group of children's organizations, including CWLA, launched the Campaign for U.S. Ratification of the CRC in 2003. The campaign focuses on moving the CRC forward in the United States and has grown to more than 200 organizations and academic institutions.

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What would be required of the United States if it were to ratify the CRC?

When a country ratifies the CRC, it commits to promoting and safeguarding the rights of children in congruence with the articles of the Convention. The key way to monitor progress is through required reporting mechanisms. The United States would submit periodic reports on progress.

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Does the CRC take away parents' rights?

As an international framework for children and youth, the CRC protects and respects children, youth, parents, and their families. The CRC emphasizes the primacy and importance of the role and authority of parents, to be respected by the state. The CRC encourages state parties to develop programs and policies that support children within the context of family and local community.

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Would ratification of the CRC challenge national sovereignty?

As ruled by the U.S. Supreme Court, under the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution, no treaty can override the Constitution [(Reid v. Covert, 354 U.S. 1 (1957)]. Furthermore, the United States can ratify the CRC with reservations, understandings, and declarations (RUDs). RUDs address specific conflicts between the U.S. Constitution and any particular Convention.

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