As a coalition of private and public entities and individuals dedicated to ensuring the safety, permanency, and well-being of children, youth, and their families, the Child Welfare League of America (CWLA) advocates for policies, best practices, and collaborative strategies that advance positive outcomes for children and youth.
The Child Welfare League of America was established as an outcome of the first White House Conference on the Care of Dependent Children in 1909. We were proud to be part of similar conferences that were held approximately every ten years until the 1990s. We have seen the competitive, corrosive politics of our time overcome the spirit of that first White House Conference, which aimed to provide an opportunity to hear directly from communities and young people about what they needed to flourish.
The tragic and unacceptable school shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, which took the lives of 14 of our children and three of their guardians and protectors, has now forced the survivors of this disaster to do what our elected officials have been unwilling to do. These young people will not wait for a White House Conference or any other gathering or ceremony to address their most basic needs of safety and survival—be it in their communities, schools, shopping malls, and movie theaters—and to live as children and young adults without fear of violence.
CWLA has worked for almost 100 years with children and families who are the most vulnerable. We recognize, however, that too many children in this country face challenges because of issues surrounding immigration, education, housing, employment, health care, mental health, and substance use, or are experiencing households, communities, or schools where there is violence. The reality is that as a country we are failing ALL of our children. It will take the combined efforts of everyone to improve the life circumstances of our children and ensure that they grow up safely, in loving families and supportive communities, with everything they need to flourish.
We have been reminded in recent days that young people and the family members, individuals and organizations that work with them are critical partners in ensuring that children have what they need to flourish. All of us have a responsibility to make sure that their voices are heard, and that we listen and act.
Our national and state leaders must act as part of ensuring a safe community for all children. Do what these young survivors from Parkland are demanding: what we are hired to do, empowered to do as leaders, and required to do as adults, parents, and human beings. Make our schools and communities safe from this outrageous violence. And do it now.