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International Child Welfare

When people from the United States think of “child welfare,” they commonly associate the term simply with child abuse and neglect. But globally, children face many other, even more severe, threats to their well-being than abuse and neglect. Children who do not receive the basics of what they need for optimal adult development, as outlined in the Convention on the Rights of the Child, will struggle more throughout their lives. Children need proper physical, emotional, and educational care to reach their adult potential. Far too many children do not have these needs met. Children lack safe drinking water, adequate sanitation, food, shelter, education, health care, and family support and care, just to name a few.

As a result, 6.6 million children under the age of 5 years die each year, mostly from preventable causes (“Global child mortality rates,” 2013). In addition to these mortal threats, almost half of the world’s 35 million refugees are children; 153 million children are orphans; 25% of all children live in extreme poverty; and 215 million are child laborers (International Labour Organization [ILO], 2010; UNHCR, 2011; UNICEF, 2012b). The majority of threats to children discussed in this chapter will fall into the categories of child labor and child abuse and the conditions that can make children more vulnerable to violations of their human rights. As awful as these numbers are, it is important to remember that in almost all areas, they represent substantial progress. While more work needs to be done, children have made substantial progress, even since the first edition of this text (UNICEF, 2012b).

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