The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child as policy and strategy for social work action in child welfare in the United States.
Abstract: The United States and Somalia are the only two countries in the world that have not ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). Opposition in the United States stems from the CRC's demand for a cultural change in how a society cares for children and a political hesitancy to become involved in binding international agreements. An earlier analysis for understanding the CRC is reviewed and replaced with one that uses a policy analysis model. This new model provides a basis for uniform child welfare policy and strategy throughout the nation. Although NASW has been supportive, it has not actively studied the consequences of implementation of the CRC, nor has it incorporated the CRC into its policy statements as a fundamental tenet. This article recommends that the NASW use the CRC as a basis for all child welfare policy statements and reference the CRS in future articles on child welfare issues. It also urges social workers to become politically active on behalf of the CRC to achieve ratification. Finally, it recommends a national committee to not only coordinate efforts toward ratification, but also oversee implementation of the CRC once it is ratified.

KEY WORDS: child welfare policy; Convention on the Rights of the Child; family policy
Article Type: Report
Subject: Child welfare (Laws, regulations and rules)
Family law (Analysis)
Children's rights
Author: Scherrer, James L.
Pub Date: 01/01/2012
Publication: Name: Social Work Publisher: Oxford University Press Audience: Academic Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Sociology and social work Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2012 Oxford University Press ISSN: 0037-8046
Issue: Date: Jan, 2012 Source Volume: 57 Source Issue: 1
Topic: Event Code: 930 Government regulation; 940 Government regulation (cont); 980 Legal issues & crime Advertising Code: 94 Legal/Government Regulation Computer Subject: Government regulation
Product: Product Code: 9101228 Children's Rights; 9101220 Juvenile & Family Law NAICS Code: 92219 Other Justice, Public Order, and Safety Activities
Geographic: Geographic Scope: United States Geographic Code: 1USA United States
Legal: Statute: Convention on the Rights of the Child
Accession Number: 294900191
Full Text: The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) has been the most widely accepted international treaty developed by the United Nations. First proposed in 1978 by Poland (which was very active in establishing UNICEF and developing the Declaration on the Rights of the Child), the CNC required ten years of negotiations to reach its final form (Cohen, 2006).

The United States played an active and significant role in these negotiations, introducing seven articles (10, 13, 14, 15, 16, 19, and 25)--more than any other nation--and providing significant input on the remainder of the 41 substantive articles (Cohen, 2006). In 1989, the United Nations General Assembly unanimously approved the CRC and submitted it to its member nations (United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, 1990). By the end of 1990, all but a few member nations had ratified the CRC. By 1997, all member nations except the United States and Somalia had ratified the CRC.

The CRC designated the child not only as a person who had the tight to care, but also as a tights holder (Cohen, 2006), one who is entitled to resources from the state, protection from the power of the state, and a reciprocal relationship with others that advances the person's well-being (Lowery, 2007). November 20, 2009 was the 20th anniversary of the passage of the CRC by the United Nations General Assembly and presented an opportunity to review its progress toward ratification in the United States. This article will examine the nature of tights, the intrinsic structure of the CRC, the opposition to it, its benefits to U.S. child welfare systems, and what social work has done in the past and can do in the future to ensure its ratification and its effective implementation.


Lauren (1998) has argued that the nature of human tights has been espoused in both Western and non-Western thought. He provided examples from ancient Chinese, Jewish, Muslim, and African thought, which he stated contributed to the development of the foundation for current understanding of the nature of these rights. Hood (2001), however, noted that although non-Western thought included guidelines and even rules for how human beings should interact with each other, this thought did not extend to recognition that humans possessed rights inherent to their humanness. Instead non-Western thought discussed obligations a good person had toward aiding those less fortunate. Thus the concept of the nature of human rights is a Western development that non-Western philosophical and religious thought has found to be compatible with their belief systems.

The nature of human rights has been considered in Western thought for centuries. Aristotle first broached the idea that human beings possessed rights that were inherent to their nature. He gave as examples the right to life and the right to burial and noted that these rights stem from the laws of nature. He also discussed political rights, which are the expectations the governed have of their government. These rights are important to the interaction between the people and their government and set principles that governments must follow. A government's failure to respect these political rights would justify the people taking action to change that government (McGrade, 1996; McKeon, 1941; Miller, 1996).

John Locke, in 1690, identified life, liberty, and property as the natural rights possessed by all human beings. He noted that these rights were intrinsic to being human and could not be justly prohibited, countered, or threatened by any form of government (Gough, 2002).

Thomas Jefferson, in 1776, proclaimed equality, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness to be fundamental rights that must be respected by all for all. He also posited that the people had the innate tight to change a government that acted to prohibit the free exercise of those fundamental tights (Garrity, 1966).

Finally, the United Nations promulgated the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948 (United Nations, 1948). This nonbinding declaration established "a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations" (Mattaini & Lowery, 2007, p. 444). Lowery (2007) defined human rights as "moral rights supported by the belief in the moral worth and dignity of human beings. Ideally, people have entitlement to these rights as human beings, regardless of age, race, class, gender, religion, national origin or language" (p. 68). The declaration expanded this definition somewhat by including "political thought, birth or other status" to the conditions of entitlement. In addition, the declaration issued a call to the states parties that agree to it to develop national and international laws and agreements incorporating the principles it espouses. The CRC is one of the international agreements that was developed.


Previous Model for Understanding the Structure of the CRC

After noting that there was no "conceptual or logical sequence" to the articles, Korr, Fallon, and Brieland (1994) provided a structure for reviewing and understanding the CRC (see Table 1). They divided the articles of the CRC into three major categories that were mostly discrete. "Entitlements" listed the articles that relate to tights inherent to being a child, which nations, societies, and parents all have the responsibility to respect. "Affirmative Freedoms" included those articles that ensure the child has the same freedoms as adults, according to his or her developmental ability. "Protections" contained the articles that prescribe that nations have the responsibility to ensure that all children are safe and healthy and that their mental, emotional, and physical needs are met. Protections are the primary responsibility of the child's parents. This category provides guidance as to what actions nations need to take to support parents and what should be done when parents are unable or unwilling to fulfill their responsibility.

New Model for Understanding the Structure of the CRC

Although the framework that Korr et al. (1994) provided for the CRC is helpful, it does not address the structure that is intrinsic to the document. Instead, it gives an impression of haphazardness to the CRC, which hinders its straightforward presentation.

Another way of reviewing the CRC is to use the value-critical policy analysis model developed by Chambers and Wedel (2009). In this model the CRC is viewed as a social policy document with six elements: goals and objectives, eligibility, interactions, financing, benefits and services, and administration and service delivery. These six elements are viewed to be essential for a policy to have any practical application. In Table 2 the CRC is divided into each of these six elements. Because they are covered by the same articles, interactions and financing are considered together but they remain separate elements.

Goals and Objectives. The preamble (United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, 1990) places the CRC in the historical context of other agreements achieved in the United Nations. The preamble also provides the philosophical and theoretical basis for the CRC and sets the goals to be achieved by the agreement. However, the preamble does not provide for any evaluation of whether the goals are met. It thus serves as the equivalent of a mission statement, where goals are set in general terms, objectives are not set, and evaluation is left to the administration and service delivery section.

The writers of the CRC decided to take a rights-based approach in setting the goals for the CRC. Children's rights are tied to universal human rights. At the same time, children's rights differ from adults' rights in significant ways. Children are dependent on others to learn the skills, attitudes, and behaviors that good citizens of the world have. Children living in circumstances that interfere with their development require particular concern. Finally, the proper growth and development of all children throughout the world are the responsibility of all nations. Those nations that do not have enough resources to ensure the rights of their children must be helped by those nations that have an excess of such resources.

Eligibility. Articles 1 and 2 establish the eligibility criteria for inclusion. These criteria are set by administrative rule and prohibit discrimination of any kind. Thus the CRC includes every human being under the age of 18. States parties are left to decide when an organism becomes a human being, but at that point that person has all of the rights considered by the CRC up to his or her 18th birthday (article 1). No child is to be discriminated against for any reason by a states party (article 2.1). In addition, states parties have the responsibility for prohibiting and preventing discrimination of any sort by any person, group, organization, or entity against any child (article 2.2).

Interaction and Financing. Articles 3, 4, and 5 describe the interactions between the CP, C, different parts of government, private organizations, and families. These articles define the hierarchy between these entities and describe how and when they interact with each other.

The primary consideration guiding these interactions is the best interest of the child (article 3.1). Children are to be cared for and protected primarily by their families or legal guardians with support and guidance, where necessary, from the states parties (article 3.2), In those instances in which the best interests of the child require the states parties to provide this care and protection, the CRC mandates that standards set by competent authorities be followed (article 3.3).

The financial responsibility for ensuring that the economic, social, and cultural rights of the child are implemented rests with the states parties, which are required to use all the resources necessary and available to them (article 4). Article 5 sets the priorities for the responsibility of teaching the child in developmentally appropriate ways how to exercise the rights recognized in the CRC. Parents have first priority, followed by extended family, then the community in which the child lives, and finally legal guardians. Only if each of these groups fails in this responsibility of teaching the child may the states parties assume this duty.

Benefits and Services. Articles 6 to 41 describe the political, social, protective, and economic rights children possess that are recognized by the CRC. It is important to note that these rights are not granted to children by the CRC. Instead, the CRC recognizes all of these rights as inherent to a child and a human being. These articles detail what a right is in section one of an article and then in subsequent sections provide steps states parties must take to ensure implementation of the identified right. The specific rights focused on by each article are noted in Table 2.

The roles states parties have in taking steps to achieve the rights for children come with a financial cost. Although the CRC does not address costs specifically except in articles 26 and 27, article 4 makes it clear that states parties are required to use whatever financial resources are available to them to achieve the goals of the CRC. All but two of these articles describe services states parties must offer to ensure the requirements of the identified rights are met.

Articles 26 and 27 note that children have the right to social security, where appropriate, and to an adequate standard of living. These two articles address actual cash outlays states parties must make. The fact that these two elements are identified as rights means that children (with parents or legal guardians acting on their behalf) can demand states parties devote whatever resources are necessary to address the needs expressed by those rights.

Administration and Service Delivery. Articles 42 to 54 address how the CRC is to be administered in delivery of services and implementation of the identified rights of children. Responsibility for administration rests with the states parties. They may contract with nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) to provide these services but bear ultimate responsibility for the effectiveness of those services. Thus, administration is centralized.

Articles 42 to 45 address how states parties are held accountable for making progress in achieving the goals of the CRC. The Committee on the Rights of the Child, which has oversight over all states parties, was established. States parties must report to the committee their plan for implementation of the CRC two years after ratifying it. Every five years after that, states parties are to present reports on their progress in achieving full implementation of the CRC. The committee has no coercive authority. Instead it provides feedback on plans and progress reports and can request independent studies by other parts of the United Nations on issues surrounding implementation of the CRC. In addition, the committee can and does request that NGOs operating in each state party prepare and submit independent reports on progress in implementation. The committee considers all of these and then makes concluding observations in which it addresses concerns it may have and makes recommendations for the state party to consider to improve its progress. All reports and concluding comments are made public, and states parties are required to make them available to families and children.

The remaining articles detail how the CRC can be ratified and provide roles reservations, understandings, and declarations (RUD) to serve as modifications of the convention a state party may make when it ratifies the CRC. The committee encourages all states parties to resolve their reservations and withdraw them. By withdrawing their reservations, states parties would then fully and unambiguously comply with the CRC. A state party's RUD can be challenged by any other state party as not substantially complying with the principles of the CRC. These challenges are publicized, and states parties are expected to work out their differences.

The final criteria by which the CRC can be analyzed as a policy is through using the principles of adequacy, efficiency, and equity (Chambers & Wedel, 2009). The CRC addresses the needs of an entire population rather than a subgroup. It is inclusive of every person under the age of 18. The goals address the identified need of the population served by the CRC. These goals are clearly explicated in articles 6 to 41. If fully enacted, these articles will affect the challenges facing the identified population. In addition, the Committee on the Rights of the Child is responsible for explaining and applying the principles of the CRC to practices and cultures through its general comments. Finally, the CRC focuses on the inherent strengths children possess to grow and develop into healthy, contributing, concerned, and dynamic human beings who can work toward the common good of all human beings.


No discussion of the CRC can be complete without reviewing the objections to its ratification in the United States. Mason (2005) noted that from a historical perspective children have been viewed differently in the United States than in Western European nations. By the late 18th century, Western European children had become the center of family life, which focused on their education as preparation for adulthood (Aries, 1962), Children in the United States who were not born to wealth were seen as chattels that contributed to the economic well-being of the family. In this sense, they had value as laborers but little else. Children without parents, from very poor families, or who were born out-of-wedlock became indentured servants to other families. Children of slaves were seen only as valuable work assets. Although Mason chronicled the progress children have made over the centuries in the United States in achieving protection and provision fights, she noted that our attitudes toward children remain ambivalent around participatory rights (the fights recognized in articles 12 through 17 in the CRC). Citing Supreme Court decisions (Tinker v. Des Moines [1969] and Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier [1998]), she noted that children have been granted some participatory rights but in general their interests are not seen as being different from those of their parents.

Carter (2006) noted that rights of individual states are closely protected in the U.S. Constitution and for this reason the nation has been reluctant to engage in formal treaties that would in any way be seen as limiting the power of the states to govern their populations. He stated that the rights of the father over his children are held to be absolute in some religious beliefs, something the CRC challenges. Finally, Carter asserted that there is strong antipathy in the United States to any perceived interference in internal national matters by outside foreign governments, including the United Nations. He provides a long list of how the United States has abrogated and broken long-standing treaties it has ratified. These three factors, he contended, lessen the chance of serious consideration of the CRC for ratification any time in the near future.

Gunn (2006) and Weissbrodt (2006) asserted that a section of U.S. society was able, through distortion, misinterpretation, and false readings, to galvanize a significant portion of the electorate to oppose ratification of the CRC. They had a major influence on Senator Jesse Helms, chairperson of the Foreign Relations Committee, which would consider the bill for ratification. These groups succeeded in framing the CRC as an assault on United States culture by the United Nations by contending that it advocated loss of parental control over their children, abortion, homosexual behavior, satanism, gang involvement, and control of U.S. families being placed in the hands of small and sometimes hostile countries. A movement in the House of Representatives currently is underway to prevent Senate ratification of the CRC by passing a "Parental Rights Amendment" to the Constitution (Joyce, 2009). Supporters of this amendment argue that the CRC would prevent parents from exercising their authority and control over their children.

Opposition to the CRC can be categorized into three areas: legal, social/cultural/religious, and political. The legal argument contends that the CRC would be self-actualizing. Once it was ratified by the Senate, it would become the law of the land and overturn immediately any laws that were not in harmony with it. In addition, it would provide the legal basis for children to act autonomously and engage in activity such as initiating suits against their parents and signing contracts (Smolin, 2006). These arguments are simply not true. Any treaty that is ratified by the United States Senate must also have national and state laws passed that enact the terms of the treaty. The laws and statutes thus enacted would harmonize with the provisions of the CRC taking into account cultural, social, and religious practices. The CRC does not grant autonomy rights to children. Rather, it recognizes the participatory rights children have in matters in which they have a vested interest.

The social/cultural/religious arguments are that the CRC permits a child to choose a religion different from his or her family's prohibits a parent from using corporal punishment when the parent believes it is necessary, and interferes with home schooling. Although it is true the CRC requires a society to review and make substantial changes in how it views children, the family, and society's role in raising them, it is also true that the CRC consistently reinforces the role and responsibility parents have in directing their children's exercising of their rights (Abramson, 2007). Thus, provision for and protection of children can no longer be the sole organizing principles behind a national policy and strategy on children. As mentioned previously, the fact that children have rights that must be respected by all changes their role in societal matters (Mason, 2005). The fact that these rights are expressed differently than similar rights held by adults must also be respected. Children must specifically and consciously be trained in what these rights are and the acceptable ways of expressing them. This means children must be taught not only to use these rights and freedoms in their own best interests, but also to take into account the best interests of others. They must also be taught how to resolve conflicts between best interests so that all benefit in some way from the experience (Doek, 2006). This is a process that would occur throughout childhood, culminating in children being able to exercise these rights and freedoms as adults when, or shortly after, they reach the age of 18.

In regard to corporal punishment, the Committee on the Rights of the Child (2006) states that corporal punishment violates article 19 of the CRC. It also notes that such practices are culturally engrained and changing them will take several generations. It encourages states parties to begin providing parents with alternate means of discipline and behavior management that conform to the developmental needs of the child. It is not in favor of criminalizing those who use corporal punishment. Thus the committee encourages collaboration between states parties and parents in discovering the best ways to raise children.

Another example is with home-schooling parents who are concerned that the CRC will be used by the government to force them to end home schooling of their children (Joyce, 2009). Although the CRC's articles 28 and 29 address children's education, and establish the aims of their education, they do not dictate the context within which that education occurs and thus cannot be used as a rationale to end home schooling.

The political argument notes that historically the nation has been reluctant to commit to treaties (Carter, 2006). There is a powerful isolationist tendency in U.S. politics that makes the ratification of treaties difficult. In 1953, Senator John Bricker introduced a constitutional amendment that would prevent any treaty from becoming internal law unless the Senate enacted legislation putting it into effect by a two-thirds majority (Morison & Commager, 1962). This amendment has been introduced periodically in the Senate ever since. When President Clinton signed the CRC, Senator Helms informed the president that he would never let it out of committee for full Senate consideration (Drinan, 2005).


One of the arguments against ratifying the CRC is that the United States and the individual states have already enacted the provisions of the CRC, and hence there is no need to sign on to something we are already doing (Mason, 2005). Although it is true that the federal government and various states have enacted laws that support many of the provisions of the CRC, the United States currently does not have a comprehensive national strategy on children. It has a mixture of requirements (such as "No Child Left Behind") that address portions of issues noted in the CRC, but there is no connection to a larger strategy of best interests of the child or to rights and freedoms the child has. The Committee on the Rights of the Child (2003) addressed these specific issues in its general comment no. 5. The committee sets forth a series of guidelines that it has found, after a decade of reviewing states' reports on their efforts to implement the requirements of the CRC, to be most helpful in implementation. The Committee on the Rights of the Child (2003) noted that a "comprehensive national strategy rooted in the convention" (paragraph 29) is an essential first step.

The Committee on the Rights of the Child (2003) realized that it is not possible to place all programs related to children under one governmental department or office. Hence it recommends that states parties have a unit in place to coordinate services and efforts to realize the requirements of the CRC. This unit would not provide direct services itself but would ensure that the efforts of other parts of the government all serve the same end in moving toward full implementation of the CRC. This unit should be placed at the highest level of authority with direct access to the executive of the nation. The United States has the Children's Bureau, which is currently under the Administration for Children and Families in the Department of Health and Human Services. To meet this requirement, the bureau should be elevated to the cabinet level.

The Committee on the Rights of the Child (2003) also noted that, in those governments in which authority has been decentralized or services have been privatized, the obligation of those lesser units remains the same as for the larger national government. The larger government is responsible for monitoring the progress in implementation of the CRC as well as collecting data and analyzing specific indicators of progress. Gathering data and analyzing it is one of the functions of the Children's Bureau. If the bureau were raised to cabinet level, it would have the authority to monitor the work of other departments. Those states that do not have the equivalent of a cabinet level position for coordinating, monitoring, data gathering, and analysis over all children's services would need to establish such a position.

The Committee on the Rights of the Child (2003) also noted that governments are responsible for training people who will work with children in ways that respect their best interests. Governments must also train parents in alternative practices in cases in which current practices interfere with the best interests of the child. The committee assumes that skill building in respecting children's best interests will take some time and effort and that the CRC requires governments to make that effort. Currently, the United States does not permit Title IV-E funds to be used for training nongovernmental employees in child welfare issues covered by this part of the committee's recommendation. This would have to be changed.

Finally, states parties are to widely disseminate the CRC to all adults and children in their societies. It is only through wide dissemination that the people can ensure that their governments make continuing good faith efforts to conform to the requirements of the CRC. This includes making the reports to the committee widely available throughout societies. Only by operating in a public and open way can there be some assurance that ongoing efforts are being made to respect and honor the rights and freedoms of children. This publicity replaces any other coercive authority the United Nations or the committee has to enforce the requirements of the treaty. This would require changes in how children are taught in schools and what they are taught. Such human rights education would "aim at the promotion of the competencies and motivations required for the implementation of human rights" (Krappmann, 2006, p. 2). Oxfam GB (2009) provides educational material for children in third through fifth grades. In addition, governments should include the CRC in any of its legislation that relates to children, to demonstrate how the law conforms to the CRC requirements. Parents should be provided ways to educate their children about the rights and freedoms they have. It is assumed, of course, that these ways will be in the context of the child's developmental stage (Lobe, 2002).

In 2005, the U.S. Supreme Court cited the CRC as a basis for its decision to rule capital punishment for people under age 18 unconstitutional under the Eighth (cruel and unusual punishment) and Fourteenth (due process) Amendments (American Society of International Law, 2005). The CRC would bring about a rethinking of our juvenile justice system and the practice of trying juveniles as adults (Gainborough & Lean, 2008). The CRC would also bring consistency to child welfare services across the states (Mohr, Genes, & Schwartz, 1999). In addition, the CRC would increase collaboration between parents and states parties to ensure that children benefited from the exercise of their rights (Auton, 2004).

Child welfare services in the United States would benefit greatly from ratification of the CRC. The current patchwork of programs and services would be unified under one holistic strategy that would be understood by all. In addition, an underlying philosophical understanding could be used to guide future policy decisions, thus giving some predictability to services and ways that they would be implemented.

Ratification would also significantly change the roles parents have in raising, educating, and training children. Current social policy does not match the rhetoric on family support that comes from those in decision-making positions at high levels of government. The breakup of families, indicated by the 50 percent divorce rate, is not good for the children of those families (Wallerstein & Lewis, 2004), yet married couples receive very little support in resolving issues, leading them to believe that divorce is the only viable option. Because states are mandated to affirmatively support families, more programs directed toward supporting parents in their responsibilities toward their children might be devised under the CRC, such as happened in Romania and the United Kingdom (Dickens, 1999). Children would thus have the environment and instruction they need to learn how to use these rights and freedoms constructively.


The profession of social work was an early supporter of the CRC. Herrmann (1991) issued a call to action on the part of social workers to have President Bush present the CRC to the Senate for ratification. Brieland, Fallon, and Korr (1994) noted that not much happened after Herrmann's invitation to act. They found that NASW had included a statement on children's rights in the second edition of its policy book Social Work Speaks. NASW also called on President Clinton to immediately sign the CRC and present it to the Senate for ratification. Nothing else can be found in U.S. social work literature on the CRC. A search of Social Work Abstracts using the terms "Convention AND Rights AND Child" found 15 articles published since 1989 on the CRC, all but five of them dealing with the CRC in other nations, A search of Social Services Abstracts using the same search terms found 85 articles, all but the same five of them discussing the CRC in other nations.

A review of the current edition of Social Work Speaks (NASW, 2009) indicates that the children's bill of rights policy statement is no longer present. A review of the policy statements on adolescent health, adolescent pregnancy and parenting, early childhood care and services, education of children and youths, family policy, family violence, foster care and adoption, juvenile justice and delinquency prevention, parental kidnapping, physical punishment of children, public child welfare, school truancy and dropout prevention, school violence, and welfare reform found that none of them referenced the CRC, much less used it as a central organizing point for a policy statement and strategy. Yet minimum standards are set for all of these policy areas in the CRC. The policy statement on child abuse and neglect references the CRC but places it in an international context, not a national one. The policy statement on the international policy on human rights noted that the CRC is "essential to the human development and quality of life of people in the United States" (p. 203). It also mentions the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and critical U.N. treaties such as the Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (1966); the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (1981); and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (1996). The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women are substantially included in other policy statements. The CRC is not. On June 28, 2001, Ruth W. Mayden, the then-president of NASW, wrote a letter to President Bush on behalf of the organization urging ratification of the CRC.

Other than the five articles referenced earlier, there has been nothing in the social work journals that deals with the issues around the CRC in the United States. Attorneys have, however, continuously addressed the issue from 1989 to the present time. A search of Lexis Nexis Academic using the search term "United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child" found 1,000 articles on the CRC in the United States published in law journals since 1989. Many of these articles address questions of law that would be affected should the United States ratify the CRC. Very little discussion of the social impact of the CRC can be found.

Chapters in social work books dealing with human rights do all mention the CRC as one of the human rights documents promulgated by the United Nations (Allen-Meares & Garvin, 2000; Lauren, 1998; Mapp, 2008; Peters & Wolper, 1995; Reichert, 2003, 2006, 2007). Most of these authors include the CRC, with a brief explanation (about one page or so), as part of a listing of human rights conventions and declarations passed by the United Nations General Assembly. Only Reichert (2007) tied the principles of the CRC directly to social work practice. She noted that social workers are responsible for educating themselves about the CRC, advocating for implementation of the CRC's requirements, questioning practices that do not conform to the CRC principles, and prioritizing the CRC within the social work profession.


Although NASW and social workers have begun work on advocating ratification of the CRC, much remains to be done. A first step would be to require use of the CRC as the basis for the policy statements listed earlier. In this way the profession will be emphasizing the importance of consideration of CRC requirements in future policy and strategy developments. A second step would be to create a policy statement that addresses the CRC specifically. Although mention of the CRC could continue in the current statement on the international policy on human rights, it needs its own statement to respect the difference in the needs and interests of children as compared with those of adults.

Social workers who conduct research involving children should always include in their publications how this research connects to the requirements of the CRC. This would include developing best practice principles in working with children within the CRC's framework. Research would be directed toward determining how the tenets of the CRC can be most effectively implemented.

A steady drumbeat of contact with national legislators as well as with the president of the United States should be maintained. The more those responsible for the political process hear from constituents about the importance of ratifying the CRC, the more likely they are to take it up for consideration.

The Committee on the Rights of the Child (2003) has noted the importance of NGOs in the development and wording of the CRC. It advocates for their continuing participation in the monitoring, reporting, and implementation of the CRC on the national level. As part of this involvement, the profession should set up a national committee that would work cooperatively with state and national governments as well as NGOs to ensure that programs, policies, and laws implement the requirements of the CRC. In this way, NASW can also ensure that it has significant input into the reports submitted to the Committee on the Rights of the Child.

Finally, social workers and child advocates should remember that ratification of the CRC is not the end of the effort. The CRC does not automatically become law when it is ratified. Instead it must be implemented through the enactment of legislation on federal and state levels. At both levels, a coordinating unit of government that has cabinet level status must be set up. Once laws and policies are enacted, they must be funded by the legislative branches and implemented by the executive branches. These governmental processes must be consistently and persistently monitored by the NGO sector to ensure that what needs to be done with children is in fact done.

The Committee on the Rights of the Child (United Nations Office of the High Commission for Human Rights, 2008) has had more than 15 years' experience reviewing the efforts of states that have ratified the CRC to implement its provisions. Implementation is not easy. It not only involves a great deal of effort, it also requires a fundamental shift in how society views children-a shift that societies do not easily make. The CRC advocates a worldwide culture in relationship to children and urges societies to review their customs, beliefs, and practices in light of the CRC. Where these customs, beliefs, and practices do not conform to the requirements of the CRC, then the societies and the states are required to find ways to bring them into conformity. This is a daunting but not impossible task. As social workers in the United States, we should take the lead in beginning this important work.

doi: 10.1093/sw/swr006

Original manuscript received April 11, 2008

Final revision received April 2, 2010

Accepted May 19, 2010

Advance Access Publication May 24, 2012


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Table 1: Structure for the CRC

Entitlement            Affirmative Freedom   Protection

Article 5: Respcct     Article 12. Free,     Artticle 2: Freedom
for Paternal           Fxpression of         from Discrimination
Responsibility         Opinion
Article 6: Survival    Article 13: Freedom   Article 3: Best
and Development        of Information        Interests
Article 7: Name        Article 15: Freedom   Article 8: Identity
and Nationality        of Association
Article 9: Parental    Article 16: Privacy   Article 11: Illicit
Care/Non-Separation                          Transfer/Non-Return
Article 10: Family     Article 19: Freedom   Article 16: Privacy
Reunification          of Conscience/        Materials
Article 17: Access     Article 31: Leisure   Article 17: Harmful
to Media and           and Recreation
Article 18: Parental                         Article 19: Abuse
Responsibilities                             and Neglect
Article 24: Health                           Article 20: Children
Care                                         without Families
Article 26:                                  Article 21: Adopted
Social Security                              Children
Article 27: Adequate                         Article 22: Refugee
Standard of Living                           Children
Article 28:                                  Article 23: Disabled
Education                                    Children
Article 29: Aims                             Article 25: Periodic
of Education                                 Review of Placements
Article 30: Children                         Article 32: Child Labor
of Minorities
Article 39:                                  Article 33: Narcotics
Rehabilitative Care
Article 40:                                  Article 34: Sexual
Juvenile                                     Exploitation
justice                                      Article 35: Sale/
                                             Trafficking of Children
                                             Article 36: Other
                                             Article 37: Torture/
                                             Capital Punishment
                                             Article 38:
                                             Participation in Armed

Note: CRC = United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Source: Korr, W. 5., Falcon, B. 1., & Brieland, D. (1994).
UN Convention on the Rights of the Child: Implications for
social work education. International Social Work, 37, 333-345.

Table 2: Structure for the CRC Using Chambers and Wedell's Model

Theme               Section       Right

Goals and           Preamble      United Nations
objectives                        Declarations,
                                  Covenants, and
                                  Agencies Statutes
                                  and Relevant
                                  Traditions and
                                  Cultural Vallues

Eligibility         Article 1     Definition of Child
                    Article 2     Non-Discrimination
Interaction         Article 3     Best Interests
and financing       Article 4     Enactment Measures
                    Article 5     Respect for Parental
Types of benefits                 Responsibility
and services                      Development
                    Article 6     Life, Survival, and
                    Article 7     Name and Nationality
                    Article 8     Identity
                    Article 9     Parental Care/Non-
                    Article 10    Family Reunification
                    Article 11    Combat Illicit
                    Article 12    Freedom of Expression
                    Article 13    Freedom of Information
                    Article 14    Freedom of Thought,
                                  Conscience and Religion
                    Article 15    Freedom of Association and
                                  Peaceful Assembly
                    Article 16    Privacy
                    Article 17    Freedom of Access to
                    Article 18    Assistance to Parents
                    Article 19    Abuse and Neglect
                    Article 20    Children without
                    Article 21    Adopted Children
                    Article 22    Refugee Children
                    Article 23    Children with
                    Article 24    Healthcare
                    Article 25    Periodic Review of
                    Article 26    Social Security
                    Article 27    Adequate Standard
                                  of Living
                    Article 28    Education
                    Article 29    Aims of Education
                    Article 30    Children of Minorities
                    Article 31    Leisure and Recreation
                    Article 32    Protection from
                                  Child Labor
                    Article 33    Protection from Narcotics
                    Article 34    Protection from
                                  Sexual Exploitation
                    Article 35    Protection from
                                  Sale or Trafficking
                    Article 36    Protection from
                                  Other Exploitations
                    Article 37    Protection from
                    Article 38    Protection from
                                  Participation in
                                  Armed Conflicts
                    Article 39    Rehabilitative Care
                    Article 40    Juvenile justice
                    Article 41    Supremacy of These
and service
delivery            Article 42    Publicize Principles
                                  and Provisions of the CRC
                    Article 43    Establish Committee
                                  on the Rights of the Child
                    Article 44    Progress Reports from
                                  State Parties to the
                    Article 45    Reports from NGOs and
                                  Other Entities to the
                                  Committee on the
                                  State Parties'

                    Article 46    Open for Signature
                                  by All States
                    Article 47    CRC Subject to
                    Article 48    The CRC Will Be Open
                                  to Ally Stare
                    Article 49    Conditions for the CRC
                                  to Enter into Force
                    Article 50    Amendments
                    Article 51    Reservations
                    Article 52    Withdrawal from the CRC
                    Article 53    Secretary-General is
                                  Depository of the CRC
                    Article 54    Promulgation of the CRC

Note: CRC = United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.
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