A health care worker smiles as she handles a group of children, posing

The Case

Millions of children and adolescents around the world live without protective, nurturing, and loving family care as a result of poverty, disabilities, disease, humanitarian crisis, exploitative labor, or human trafficking. Evidence shows that when children face chronic, unaddressed adversities, the resulting toxic stress can have life-long, debilitating mental, emotional, and physical effects, no just on them and their families, but on the societies and countries where they live, across generations.

Strategic investments in parents, children and families can mitigate the effects of adversity, and produce gains to children, families, communities, and nations. It can boost the lifetime potential of children and minimize their likelihood of being trapped in the cycle of poverty and violence, which in turn, creates greater burdens on social-welfare systems when they become adults.

Strengthening the capacities of children, adolescents, and the families who love and care for them is one of the best investments a country can make to eliminate extreme poverty, boost economic growth, and promote a peaceful society.

Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Influence Health and Well-Being Throughout the Lifespan

Graphic credit: CDC.gov


The Mandate

In 2005, the U.S. Congress passed Public Law 109-95: The Assistance for Orphans and Other Vulnerable Children in Developing Countries Act, recognizing the importance of a comprehensive, coordinated and effective U.S. Government response to the world’s most vulnerable children. The law required an interagency strategy and mandated the appointment of a U.S. Government Special Advisor on Children in Adversity to coordinate foreign assistance to vulnerable children and their families.

In response to the law, and considered the first-ever whole-of-government strategic guidance for foreign assistance for children, The United States Government Action Plan on Children in Adversity was released in 2012 to achieve a world in which all children grow up within protective family care and free from deprivation, exploitation, and danger.

The new Strategy builds on progress achieved under the Action Plan in delivering better outcomes for the millions of children around the world who face serious deprivation and danger, and provides a shared basis for continued, technically sound, collaborative action.

Photo credit: Valerie Caldas, USAID Suaahara project