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The Child Welfare League of America (CWLA), the oldest and largest association of child welfare agencies in the country will celebrate its 100th birthday in 2020. 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 well-being 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 well-being and safety of our nation’s children and CWLA was established. Today, CWLA is a powerful coalition of hundreds of private and public agencies serving children and families who are vulnerable. CWLA’s 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.

What makes CWLA unique?

CWLA is an association of public-sector and private-sector child welfare agencies and individuals from across the country. We are differentiated from other organizations by our long-standing history of developing and promoting best practice standards and our 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 children and families and to promote practice excellence.

Throughout its history, CWLA has championed legislation and services that ensure the safety and well-being of all children and their families. CWLA's greatest strength is its members whose on the ground experience with children and families provides credibility for CWLA’s work. 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 promotes the involvement of 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 children, young people, and families with a special focus on child abuse and neglect. 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. CWLA works with professionals across the country to ensure they have knowledge of best practices and the skills to serve children and families who are troubled. CWLA also supports the field by advocating for socially responsive policies. CWLA works to educate the public about the needs of children who are abused and neglected and increasingly provides information on healthy child and family development especially as it relates to children in the child welfare system. CWLA develops standards for service in areas such as child protection, foster care, adoption, and through this process promote quality services for children and families. Increasingly CWLA’s information is informed by and used by child and family serving organizations around the world.

Since the time of its release CWLA has supported 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. Given the current political climate CWLA supports the principles of the CRC through its National Blueprint for Excellence in Child Welfare. CWLA has integrated the key principles of the CRC in its National Blueprint for Standards Excellence which provides the road map for future child welfare services.

CWLA’s reach is increasingly global. 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. CWLA’s Standards of Excellence are used by NGOs around the world and about one third of the abstracts that CWLA receives for articles to be published in its peer reviewed academic journal are from outside the US. CWLA is currently working with its international partners to plan a Global conference that will be held in 2020. The focus of the conference will be on redefining the front end of child welfare so that the focus is on prevention. The proceedings of the conference will also be used to produce a special issue of its peer reviewed journal on the topic. Both the conference and the journal will incorporate the principles of the CRC. Additional details about CWLA’s global focus are included in the package.

CWLA’s key priorities for the upcoming year as they relate to Cry America are as follows:

  • Use CWLA’s National Blueprint for Excellence in Child Welfare as a vehicle for fostering discussion about the rights of children.
  • Work with child and family serving organizations to support them in their response to issues related to opioid addition and immigration and their impact on child welfare. Work in partnership with CWLA’s Mental Health Advisory Board to implement a strategy to improve the knowledge base and ability of agencies to respond to the negative impact that opioid and other addictions during pregnancy can have on infants.
  • Meet the goals and objectives of the multiyear Global Strategy focused on reinventing the front end of child welfare. Recruit an intern to assist with this project.
  • Update key CWLA publications that advance improved practice in the field of child welfare including Caseload/workload standards and a Child Welfare Practice Guides
  • Expand the Father Engagement Learning Community and share the information it develops with the field through publications, webinars and presentations at conferences.
  • Continue to expand the availability of our well known PRIDE curriculum and training which are designed to provide additional knowledge and resources for foster parents (ongoing).

To learn more about CWLA, go to: