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The Child Welfare League of America (CWLA) is the oldest and largest association of child welfare agencies in the country. While not established until 1920, the idea and impetus for a coalition of child welfare advocates began in 1909 when President Theodore Roosevelt called for the first White House Conference on children. The meeting was attended by a number of child and family-serving agencies that focused on the wellbeing of children, especially those who were forced to work in factories at very low wages just to support their families. Many children at that time were also orphaned due to poor health conditions in the U.S. As a result of the White House Conference, 68 agencies banded together to advocate for the wellbeing and safety of our nation’s children and CWLA was established. Today, CWLA is a powerful coalition of hundreds of private and public agencies and individuals concerned about vulnerable children and families. Our expertise, leadership and innovation on policies, practices, and programs help improve the lives of millions of children in all 50 states, U.S. Territories, and surrounding countries. Our publications and training curricular are sold in 21 countries outside of the US.

What makes CWLA unique?

CWLA is an association of public sector and private sector child welfare agencies from across the country. We are differentiated from other organizations by our long-standing history, the number of members we have in each of the 50 states, and by the intentional focus on effectively leveraging the public-private partnerships in our field. We work together with our member agencies to advocate for public policy on behalf of vulnerable children and families and to promote practice excellence.

For close to 100 years, CWLA has championed legislation and services that ensure the safety and wellbeing of all children and their families. CWLA's greatest strength is its members (over 400 from coast to coast). CWLA’s national programs and expertise reflect the scope of our member agencies’ services by spanning a range of community services designed to strengthen and support parents, families, and children. These services include: adoption, adolescent pregnancy prevention and teen parenting, child day care, child protection, children affected by incarceration, family foster care, group residential care, housing and homelessness, kinship care, juvenile justice, mental health, positive youth development, substance abuse prevention and treatment, and community-based services. CWLA actively involves young people and family members and engages them as active participants in our efforts to support and improve the field of child welfare.


Through our programs, publications, research, conferences, professional development, and consultation, CWLA speaks with authority and candor about the status and the needs of American children, young people, and families. As the nationally recognized entity for setting practice standards in child welfare, CWLA provides direct support to agencies that serve children and families, improving the quality of the services they provide to more than nine million children every year. We work with professionals across the country to ensure they have knowledge of best practices and the skills to serve troubled children and families. We also support the field by advocating for socially responsive policies. We work to educate the American public about the needs of abused and neglected children and increasingly provide information and tips on healthy child and family development. We develop standards for service in areas like child protection, foster care, adoption, and through this process promote quality services for children and families.

As part of our work, CWLA supports U.S. ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). The CRC calls on governments to develop and implement policies and programs that ensure children grow up in supportive family and community environments that foster an atmosphere of happiness, love, and understanding. The Convention sets out basic standards that individual nations agree to pursue on behalf of children. The standards rest on four underlying principles: the right to survival; the right to develop to the fullest potential; the right to protection from abuse, neglect, and exploitation; and the right to participate in family, cultural, and social life. The United States and Somalia are the only countries that have not yet ratified the treaty.

CWLA is frequently asked to meet with delegations from other countries that want to learn more about US child welfare practices and policy and currently issues licenses to allow groups to use CWLA training for foster parents, in 30 countries. This evolving role in the international community deepens our resolve to see the US ratify the CRC. CWLA has integrated the key principles of the CRC in its recently released National Blueprint for Standards Excellence that provides the road map for future child welfare services. CWLA has spoken at symposia and at briefings on Capitol Hill to indicate our support for ratification and co-led the effort to obtain signatures for a petition urging the President to initiate action required for ratification of the CRC. Our goal is to advance the U.S. Ratification of the Convention of the Rights of the Child through education, policy advocacy and media outreach.

Our objectives for this goal are as follows:

Support CRC initiative planning through participation in regular meetings and assisting with new implementation strategies that are reflective of the President being in his second term and the leadership change at the State Department. (ongoing)

Help plan and participate in a series of events organized under the auspices of the CRC Campaign, as part of our efforts to raise awareness of global issues important for children, around the occasion of Universal Children’s Day and the 25th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. (ongoing)

Publish informational materials regarding the Convention for the Rights of the Child in our online newsletter (ongoing)

Use the National Blueprint for Standards Excellence as a vehicle for fostering additional discussion about the rights of children. (ongoing)

Support coalition building and advocacy in conjunction with other non profit partners, including the U. S. Campaign for the Ratification of the Convention for the Rights of the Child, the supporters of the Convention for the Rights of the Disabled and others. (ongoing)

In addition we will continue to support the capacity of families, communities and other stakeholders to care for vulnerable children and families. Our objectives for this goal are as follows:

Update the CWLA Standards of Excellence to reflect the National Blueprint for Excellence in Child Welfare. The first standards to be updated will be the caseload/workload standards. (ongoing)

Increase focus on the importance of engaging fathers in advancing child well being. Publish articles on the topic in the Children’s Voice; hold a special supersession at the CWLA 2015 National Conference on the importance of engaging fathers in child wellbeing; partner with The Stoneleigh Foundation Fellows' Project "The Integration of Responsible Fatherhood within Foster Care Service Delivery and Other Children and Youth Servicing Systems", Administration for Children and Families (ACF), Region III; The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention; the American Bar Association (ABA) Center on Children and the Law; and Bryn Mawr College, Graduate School of Social Work and Social Research (GSSWSR).) to launch a national conversation about the role that fathers play in advancing child well being.(ongoing)

Continue to advance our efforts to encourage and support partnerships between child welfare organizations and the faith based community. (ongoing)

Expand the availability of our nationally known PRIDE curriculum and training which are designed to provide additional knowledge and resources for foster parents with a special focus on reaching new audiences of parents, caregivers and workers outside of child welfare and outside of the US. (ongoing)

Expand the availability of our recently developed curriculum and training for Kincare givers in the US and outside of the US (ongoing)

Organize a Substance Abuse and Child Welfare Conference to be held in 2016 and produce two special issues of the Child Welfare Journal, a textbook and various training tools on the topic. (ongoing)

Continue to promote the special editions of our award winning, peer reviewed Child Welfare Journals focused on moving research to practice and policy in child welfare, housing and family stability as an issue in child welfare and kinship research. (ongoing)

Publish updated tools and curricular and sponsor workshops, webinars and other learning opportunities related to substance abuse, sex trafficking, LGBTQ issues in adoption, implementation of kinship navigator programs, youth education and development, working with children in immigrant families fatherhood and working with the faith based community, working with children from military families and other, implementing evidence based and evidence informed services and other key issues that pertain to the National Blueprint.

Broadly promote the National Blueprint for Standards of Excellence.

Continue to add content and links for the new website as a way to that will introduce the organizations new strategic direction, increase its membership base and facilitate increased commitment to the principles of the National Blueprint for Excellence in Child Welfare.

To learn more about CWLA, go to: