Children's Voice September/October 2008

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Leadership Lens

Christine James-Brown

This edition of Children's Voice reminds us of the universal nature of our work. People across the world share a concern about the health and well-being of children and the importance of strong families and communities, as demonstrated in the One on One interview with CWLA Senior Fellow, David Roth. Roth talks about the significance of the Convention on the Rights of the Child for improving outcomes for the two billion children under 18 throughout the world. This interview--along with the article "Putting Children First" by our exceptional new editor of the Voice--are important reminders of the struggles facing children and families outside of the United States.

The reality is that even CWLA, with its mission to serve the needs of families, children, and youth in the United States, cannot fully carry out this mission without having a major commitment to the billions of children who live outside our formal borders. In "Helping Immigrant Families," four dedicated social workers talk about the challenge of serving an increasing number of immigrant children and families. This is just one of many challenges that require us to include all of the world's children in our vision of improved outcomes. We also face the reality of international adoption, and the fact that there are thousands of American children living outside of the United States who could be in need of protection or support.

There are thousands of knowledgeable social workers and community workers around the world who have developed innovative ways to support families and children that could inform our work. Prior to joining CWLA, I worked for an international organization where I traveled to more than 30 countries and saw children and families faced with overwhelming challenges. I also saw some incredibly creative responses to these challenges.

I believe that CWLA can have a commitment to the children and families in the United States and also to children and families in other countries. This commitment involves adding our voice to that of others around the world who advocate for better outcomes for all children. It also means sharing what we know about what works for us and taking the time to learn what has worked for our international colleagues.

In a prior issue of the Voice, we reported that our child welfare system ranks low on an international United Nations survey. Surely we have as much to learn from other countries as we have to teach. "Supporting the Nation's Future" describes where the presidential candidates stand on the well-being of America's children. Both Senator McCain and Senator Obama have focused on important ways to improve life circumstances for children. But clearly they--and we--need to do more.

CWLA has called for a White House Conference on Children and Youth to be held in 2010. This conference and the hundreds of community meetings that will be held in connection with the conference will set the agenda for how our country can improve outcomes for children and its standing on the international child well-being scale. CWLA will also work with our sister agency, CWLC in Canada, and recommit to its involvement with the International Forum for Child Welfare so that we can realize the full power of an international league of people dedicated to the shared mission of improved child well-being.

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