Children’s Rights

The Foundation of Child Advocacy
  • Gary B. Melton


Particularly since the call by the Joint Commission on the Mental Health of Children (1970) for “child advocacy,” there has been a social movement on behalf of children. Child advocacy is indeed a social movement, an effort to enhance the status of children. It is more than simply the provision of direct services to children or doing “nice things for them.” Rather, child advocacy represents an attempt to increase the responsiveness and accountability of social institutions affecting children. Whether the intent is to increase children’s self-determination or to enhance the social, educational, and medical resources to which children are entitled, child advocates have as their mission social action on behalf of children. Like earlier “child-saving” movements, the current advocacy movement has had at least two basic assumptions. First, it is assumed that children are in a state of dependency that leaves them vulnerable to abuse by caretakers. By law, social custom, and in some cases the developmental incapacity of the child, children are subject to a “benign oppression” which renders them essentially powerless (Koocher, 1976b). Even if caretakers are not malevolent in their intentions, their actions may not be in children’s best interests through ignorance or simply as a result of complex competing pressures. Furthermore, even if the caretakers are both competent and primarily concerned with their children’s interests, the realities of “the system” may make it impossible for them to fulfill their children’s needs. Simply put, “mothers cannot do it all”: (Hobbs, 1975, p. 225). In such an instance, there is a need for an advocate to support the interests of the child.


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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1983

Authors and Affiliations

  • Gary B. Melton
    • 1
  1. 1.University of NebraskaLincolnUSA

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