20 Years of Eurochild: Our History

Established on 26 July 2004 and with its current 211 members in 42 countries, Eurochild is the largest network of child rights organisations and individuals working with and for children. We look back at its achievements and highlights through the years.

In 2007, Eurochild organised its annual conference in Malta “Preventing social exclusion of children and young people in Europe: Participation and early intervention”. 17 years later, on the occasion of the Eurochild Convention 2024, Eurochild went back to Malta and celebrated its 20th birthday with another event focusing on poverty and social exclusion. This demonstrates how much needs to be done to fight poverty in the EU.

Now, let’s switch on our time machine and go back in time.


Our inaugural General Assembly in Brussels took place on 19 March 2004 with 13 organisations previously cooperating in the European Forum for Child Welfare (which was dissolved in 2003). Catriona Williams (Children in Wales) was nominated as President, Ninetta Kazantzis (Pan Cyprian Coordinating Committee for the Protection and Welfare of Children, Cyprus) as treasurer and Ene Tomberg (Estonian Union for Child Welfare) as Secretary. The meeting foresaw the creation of a secretariat with three staff members. Since the beginning, and during the financial crisis years, poverty has been one of the main areas of work together with child participation and early childhood education and care.

In 2007 the network counted already 64 members from 23 countries. Members States of the European Union and some neighbouring countries. Eurochild was already a member of the Child Rights Action Group and later joined Social Platform and the European Anti-Poverty Network. As a ‘key network’ funded through European Commission’s PROGRESS initiative on social protection and social inclusion, a key task in 2008 was to evaluate the situation in EU member states.

Counting only 6 staff members in 2009
, Eurochild created different thematic working groups with its members. A major achievement of the children in alternative care group was to publish comprehensive national surveys covering 26 EU member states on the situation of children in alternative care.

Since its first years, Eurochild included children in its projects and events and advocated for young people’s participation in decision-making processes. In July, 33 young people from 10 countries gathered in Brussels to discuss child poverty with representatives of the different EU institutions. With support from the Belgian Presidency of the EU and UNICEF EU office, Eurochild has also paved the way for a future Recommendation on child poverty and well-being at the EU level to provide a policy framework that puts children’s best interests at its heart. The campaign to End Child Poverty, which involved children, was also launched. Maria Herczog, was elected Eurochild President in 2010 and will lead Eurochild until 2016.


In 2011 social inclusion – even though it was identified as a key priority under the Europe 2020 strategy adopted the year before – appeared to drop off the agenda and many national governments implemented austerity measures. Eurochild members evaluated the National Reform Programmes (the economic governance tool of Europe 2020) which enabled Eurochild to raise children’s issues at the heart of the economic debate. The work done on the EU budget 2014-2020 also deserves mention. Eurochild also started an in-depth piece of work on Roma children since a child-centred approach was missing from most of the talk of Roma integration.

The work on deinstitutionalisation increased and a new thematic group was created. Eurochild played a key role in raising attention to the issue of EU money being spent on renovating institutions or ‘orphanages’.

Eurochild launched the ‘Speak Up!’ child participation project involving consultations with children aged 12-15 from Sweden, Poland, Ireland, Hungary, England, the Netherlands, Bulgaria and Greece. Each partner worked with children from a particularly vulnerable background, such as Roma or Traveller children, deaf and hard-of-hearing, children in care etc.

2012 was marked by the ever-deepening social crisis in Europe. Eurochild kept a close eye on the EU Budget 2014-2020 and organised an exhibition with an expert roundtable and a training for staff in the European on deinstitutionalisation. Eurochild joined the EEG, the European Expert Group on the transition from institutional to community-based care and published with Hopes and Homes for Children a Working Paper and a brochure to dispel the myths around institutionalisation.

Eurochild established the NPNs, the National Partner Networks, which are representative networks of the children’s sector operating at the national and sub-national level.

2013 was an important year for Eurochild. In 2013 the long-awaited EC Recommendation on ‘Investing in Children – Breaking the cycle of disadvantage’ was adopted as part of the Social Investment Package in February 2013. Eurochild launched the Europe-wide deinstitutionalisation campaign ‘Opening Doors for Europe’s Children’ in June 2013. That year Eurochild adopted its 5-year strategy (2014-2018) which paved the way for the network to continue to grow and influence.

On Children’s Day (20 November) Eurochild and UNICEF launched a European Child Rights Manifesto for the 2014 European elections in Strasbourg. Europe 2020- For a third consecutive year, Eurochild assessed the National Reform Programmes (NRPs) from a child rights point of view and presented country-specific recommendations. Eurochild held its 10th Annual Conference in Milan (Italy) from 13-15 November 2013 on the topic of “Building an inclusive Europe – the contribution of children’s participation”. The network reached 119 full members, 42 associate members and 1 honorary member from 35 members. Eurochild signed a 4-year strategic partnership with the European Commission (DG Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion) after the end of the progress initiative.

2014 -2017

In 2015 Eurochild turned 10 years old and counted 127 full members from 35 European countries. The Child Rights Manifesto campaign succeeded in securing over 90 Child Rights Champions in the European Parliament following elections in May 2014. As a result, a new intergroup was formed to mainstream children’s rights throughout Parliamentary business. Eurochild and 23 other European networks active in tackling child poverty and promoting children’s well-being, launched the EU Alliance for Investing in Children to push for full implementation of the European Commission Recommendation “Investing in Children – Breaking the Cycle of Disadvantage”.

Our advocacy paid off and ending institutional care became an EU priority. Explicit references to deinstitutionalisation were included in the Regulations on the European Social Fund and the European Regional Development Fund. In 2014 three thematic working groups were actively focusing on: Family and Parenting Support (FPS), Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) and Children in Alternative Care (CiAC).

Eurochild joined Children as Actors for Transforming Society (CATS) Conference 2014 with six children’s delegations (from Cyprus, Malta, Sweden, UK, Croatia and Italy), 28 children and young people in total. Eurochild’s Annual Conference 2014, was entitled “Children First: Better Public Spending for Better Outcomes for Children and Families” (26-28 November) and focused on public spending. Eurochild launched the Hear Our Voices! project featuring child participation and aimed at ensuring children with intellectual disabilities are treated as experts in matters related to their own lives, and that their views are taken into account.

In 2015 a new and stronger brand identity
with a new logo and website were developed. Eurochild demanded Members of the European Parliament backing for targets to end child poverty. The Written Declaration on investing in children received overwhelming support and became the most signed Written Declaration since 2011. The demands were adopted as a resolution of the European Parliament and forwarded to the European Council and Commission.

Eurochild helped focus attention on the plight of children in alternative care in Greece and cofounded a mapping study which influenced the government’s decision to reform its child protection system.From Finland to Greece, Ireland to Serbia, Eurochild members offered support and services to refugee and migrant children. Eurochild, along with its members and with support of Child Rights Connect, gathered the views of nearly 2,700 children from more than 70 countries about how governments spend money to protect and promote child rights.

Childonomics - To build concrete evidence, Eurochild launched a research project aimed at developing a tool to determine the long-term social and economic return of investing in children. It looked at long-term societal costs linked to insufficient investment and misdirected funding of outdated care systems. In October, Eurochild joined the Global Coalition Against Child Poverty.

For Universal Chuldren’s Day, Eurochild welcomed children from across Europe to Brussels to talk with Members of the European Parliament and European Commission officials about their involvement in decision-making processes. Eurochild also run summer advocacy workshops for children at the CATS conference in Switzerland.

In late 2016, Eurochild joined 74 other civil society organisations to formally launch SDG Watch Europe. This broad coalition aims to ensure that the EU and its Member States live up to the commitments they made when signing Agenda 2030, commonly known as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which should apply at home as well as abroad.

The network reached 178 members from 33 countries with 19 national partners networks representing 1900 organisations. The Secretariat was composed of 16 staff members. Children’s Rights Matter: Why Europe needs to invest in children

For the first time Eurochild’s conference involved children in the A to Z of planning, delivery and follow-up. With over 270 participants including 60 children and young people from 34 countries, discussions ranged from how children feel about migration, poverty and alternative care and how their concerns are addressed by national and European policies. The UK House of Lords EU Committee report on “Children in crisis: unaccompanied migrant children in the EU” recognized Eurochild 2016 conference as a Good practice in Enabling children to be heard.

The Council of Europe launched a 6-year strategy on the rights of the child and Eurochild coordinated the participation of children at the Council high-level launch conference in Sofia. On the occasion of International Children’s Day, Eurochild supported the participation of 15 children from over 9 EU countries who travelled to the European Parliament in Brussels to share how they are influencing decisions that affect children at local level. Speaking directly with Members of the European Parliament in bilateral meetings, they called for greater access to child-friendly information, allocation of resources for formal participatory processes and greater information to children on how money is spent in order to participate in decision-making.

Along with the Child Rights Action Group, a renewed website managed by Eurochild was launched in mid-2016 publicising the work done by the Intergroup on Children’s Rights. The Opening Doors campaign expanded to 15 countries and country fact sheets, and new successful stories of deinstitutionalization were published.

In 2017 Eurochild piloted National Eurochild Forums (of children) in three countries, and established a Eurochild Children’s Council to advise on the advocacy work. The 2017 Eurochild report on the European Semester gave a prominent role to the country profiles based on 22 members’ inputs.


In 2018 the network counted171 members from 34 countries, including 22 ‘national partner networks’ which together represent over 2,000 organisations. The Europe Kids Want survey reached over 14,000 children. Their opinions shaped our calls to the new European Parliament after the elections.

Eurochild launched its assessment of the first European Semester since the Proclamation of the European Pillar of Social Rights (November 2017) and successfully advocated for better and increased spending on children and for the first time the social inclusion of children and the reduction of child poverty feature among the specific objectives of the European Social Fund+. Thanks in part to Eurochild’s advocacy, the European Parliament recognised child poverty as a key problem to address in the next seven-year EU budget starting in 2021. Together with our members, we supported the European Commission’s work on development of the European Quality Framework in 2014 and the proposal for a Council Recommendation on Quality in Early Childhood Education and Care from May 2018.

Eurochild Conference “Building a better Europe with children: All Aboard!”: Among the 300 participants were practitioners, researchers, civil society actors, policy and decision makers, and 100 children and young people under the age of 18. Eurochild supported three events addressing child poverty in Latvia, child budgeting and children’s rights implementation in Slovenia and institutionalising child participation in Cyprus.

In 2019, we had 176 members with 34 countries represented. We had 104+ meetings with high level decision-makers, 742 people participated in Eurochild events 12,662 views of Eurochild’s videos, 650 children worked directly with Eurochild network. Almost 20,000 children and young people were consulted from over 48 countries.

Her Excellency Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca, former Maltese President is elected President of Eurochild at the General Assembly.

Ahead of the European Parliament elections,
Eurochild, in coalition with over a dozen children’s rights organisations and its own members, campaigned for a Vote for Children. The #VoteforChildren campaign gathered signatures of support from candidates who committed to become Child Rights Champions by upholding children’s rights if elected. Many of Eurochild’s priority demands were raised in the resolution which addressed the need for meaningful forms of child participation, and investing in public services for children, including support for the establishment of a European Child Guarantee.

The 2019 Eurochild General Assembly saw the transition from the very first Eurochild Children’s Council (ECC) to its second group. The new Children’s Council is composed of 12 children from 12 countries aged 11-16, each supported by an organisation from within Eurochild’s membership and selected for their active engagement on issues of local or national concern, from bullying, to climate change, child participation and child poverty.

2020 brought incredible hardship for many children and families in Europe. We adapted quickly by listening hard to what our members and children needed. Our report ‘Growing up in Lockdown’ details the impact of the pandemic on children in 25 countries. We advocated fiercely so that children wouldn’t become the invisible victims of the pandemic. We mobilised our members and convened dialogues with high-level decision-makers to put children first. As a result, tackling child poverty is now a priority in the EU budget.

We launched First Years, First Priority - a campaign in 9 EU countries to improve investment in early childhood development.  And we empowered children to participate directly! We are delighted to have played a part in reaching over 10,000 children who were consulted on the new EU strategy on children’s rights.

In 2021 we launched our audiovisual campaign #CanWeBelieveinYou to draw attention to children living in poverty. The campaign also drew attention to the increase in the number of children living in poverty due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the urgent need to invest in children.

For over three years Eurochild had advocated with its members and other civil society networks to ensure that the European Social Fund Plus (ESF+) prioritises investing in children. As a result, in January the Council of the European Union and the European Parliament agreed that Member States with a level of child poverty above the EU average must allocate at least 5% of their ESF+ resources to address this issue.In March, the European Child Guarantee Recommendation was launched. This Recommendation took into account many of the demands brought forward by Eurochild and its members.

A dedicated Eurochild Child Guarantee Taskforce was launched in September and this initiated member-led activities aimed at raising awareness of and influencing the Child Guarantee at national level. This led to the publication of 6 country reports and a set of recommendations for the design and implementation of all Child Guarantee National Action Plans.

We organised stakeholders’ discussion on Recovery and Resilience Facility as a means to creating community and family-based care & co-hosted the 2021 Fundamental Rights Agency Forum ‘Beyond Institutional Care – fulfilling social rights for all children and families’. In partnership with Martin James Foundation we built capacities of our members in targeted Technical Assistance in Greece, Croatia and Poland, and initiated continuation with members in Greece and Turkey through re-granting, tailored capacity building and technical assistance to push for national child protection reforms.

In 2021 Eurochild adopted the updated Child Participation Strategy.

We created a child-friendly overview of the EU Strategy on the Rights of the Child, which was shared with the children involved in the – ‘Our Europe, Our Rights, Our Future’ consultation. Eurochild coordinated the validation by children of 23 child-friendly language versions (short, long and easy-read) of the EU strategy on the rights of the child. We also organised a child participation training for 17 European Commission, Frontex and European Court of Auditors staff.


In this period of poly-crisis, Eurochild continued to work with its members as well as national and EU governments to ensure the best interests of the child were promoted and protected. Space for Solidarity: Twice a month, Eurochild connected its members to exchange information, highlight challenges and identify good practices that can help protect children’s rights during this devastating war in Ukraine.

We developed and amplified evidence to prioritise children’s rights, in partnership with UNICEF, UNHCR, the EU Education Solidarity Group, and worked with international civil society allies, such as in the Global Subgroup on Ukraine Children’s Care. We designed and distributed Heroes Cry Too colouring book for children suffering of traumatic experiences caused by the war, and donated 500 copies of the humanitarian response in Belgium.

Anti-rights movements: Eurochild organised a high-level meeting where our President Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca brought together European Commission Vice President Šuica and the Council of Europe Human Rights Commissioner Mijatović to raise the need of having a European mechanism to protect children’s rights defenders.

We set up a Child Guarantee Taskforce to identify a range of recommendations for all Member States and we published specific recommendations for six countries, Bulgaria, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy and Spain. The work of the Taskforce was included in over 60 meetings and events with EU Institutions.

We developed one-page overviews of the Child Guarantee National Action Plans we released the (In)visible Children report which highlights the recommendations and priorities that EU decision-makers and national governments can work on to support the most vulnerable children and prevent widening inequalities.

Until March 2022, Eurochild co-chaired the European Expert Group on the transition from institutional to community & family-based care (EEG), to coordinate civil society action at EU level.

Our emergency mapping with UNICEF on children in alternative care and unaccompanied and separated children displaced from Ukraine in 13 countries informed EU Guidance on coordinating registration and provision of care, the Government of Ukraine, and international civil society-issued Key considerations and recommendations for children’s care in Ukraine and resulting from the invasion. We also provided key intelligence to a Reuters’ investigation of the situation of children evacuat­ed from orphanages in Ukraine using findings from the DataCare project.

As a result of our advocacy, EU funding calls from DG JUST related to children’s rights now require the involvement of children in proposals and the need to ensure child protection measures are respected. Eleven young people participate in the third Eurochild’s Children’s Council (ECC) which is a central structure in Eurochild’s child participation strategy. Eurochild supported and coordinated the participation of more than 50 children at the European Commission’s 14th EU Forum on the Rights of the Child.

In 2023 Eurochild grew to 200 members in 42 countries. We participated in more than 279 external meetings and events sharing our recommendations to promote and protect children’s rights. The Members Taskforce on children’s rights in the digital environment was created.

Sabine Saliba, become Eurochild's Secretary General after many years of guidance from Jana Hainsworth who led Eurochild from the first years.

Children’s Rights: Political will or won’t? - We shared with EU institutions our country-specific recommendations based on child rights assessments provided by 38 Eurochild members in 26 countries.

We successfully advocated for stronger financial support for the European Child Guarantee, monitored and influenced its implementation at the national level.

Our work with children on the new EU Strategy on the Rights of the Child with the European Commission's Department for Justice won the European Ombudsman Award for Good Administration 2023. We launched several projects boosting child participation in local and national decision-making. We successfully influenced the EU resolution “Children First – Strengthening the Child Guarantee, Two Years On,” which now includes references to the importance of investing in early childhood.

Our work continues!

Want to know more? It was impossible to include all the projects, activities and research Eurochild did through the years, so if you want to see our history in details, look at our previous annual reports in the About Us page.

Here are some photos of the Eurochild Secretariat, members and board:

20 Years of Eurochild

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