The premise of this book is that 400 million children—one in five children alive—are abused and neglected in ways that could affect their entire lives, and that greater progress in protecting those children is both urgent and possible.
The book reviews the long history of child maltreatment from prehistoric times to the present, contrasting statements about precious, innocent children with the realities of child maltreatment around the world. Child protection is defined using the sixteen categories of maltreatment from the work of the United Nations Children’s Fund. The roles of the major players in global child protection are described, noting that this field is a small part of the broader arenas of foreign aid and foreign policy. The book discusses the difficult question of what causes child maltreatment, reviewing poverty, religious and cultural practices, gender inequity and other forms of discrimination, parental addictions, and war and its aftermath. Ten specific responses to child maltreatment are proposed, aiming at reducing the fragmentation and increasing the effectiveness of child protection programs. A critique is included on recent responses of US agencies and international counterparts, with appendices on India and China as the countries with the greatest numbers of children.