Children’s rights are human rights that are essential to living as human beings. Children’s rights are absolute and fundamental to advancing the human rights of all human beings. Each child has a right to be raised in a nurturing, loving family, with basic needs like food, primary health care, and formal education. In addition, each child has the right to be protected from abuse, neglect, and maltreatment. Children should be protected from kidnapping and trafficking. Children have a right to protection under the law, and each child has a right to have decisions made in his or her best interests.

Over the years, it has been a primary responsibility of governments to intervene on behalf of children when parents or other caregivers violate their rights to protection. In the United States, President Theodore Roosevelt hosted the first White House Conference on the Care of Dependent Children. One of the greatest accomplishments of the first Conference was the creation of the Children’s Bureau—which, for the first time, focused the aim of child welfare on all children, not merely disadvantaged children. In the decades that followed, the conferences became devoted to improving the lives of children across the country. CWLA traces its roots to that first conference, and has been at the forefront of advocating for federal child welfare policy since that time.

Prior to 1974, the federal government played a useful but minor role in child protection. The Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA), which passed that year was the first federal legislation on child protection. In fact, while the Bureau was concerned with the welfare of poor and disadvantaged children, nationwide little attention was paid to child maltreatment until the 1960s. Child abuse-reporting laws and enhanced awareness of child abuse produced an increase in attention and the development of strategies for intervention.