On 16-18 June of 1989, thirty eight national child welfare nongovernmental organizations (NGO’s ) representing approximately three hundred child welfare NGO’s on six continents joined in the founding of the International Forum for Child Welfare ( IFCW ) at Haikko, Finland.

The founding was the culmination of four years of preparation begun in 1985 by Sir Leslie Kirkley, Pat Light and Alan Davis.

Sir Leslie Kirkley CBE was Vice President of the International Union for Child Welfare (IUCW) – Switzerland and was Chair of IUCW’s Restructuring Commission (1984-1986). Sir Leslie had been the first Director of OXFAM – UK at its founding in Oxford, England and honored with a knighthood by the Queen for his leadership and service to humanity.

Alan Davis was President and CEO of the National Council on Child Abuse and Family Violence (NCCAFV) in the USA (and continues today as Chairman and CEO). Mr. Davis was a member (1983-85) of the IUCW’s International Standing Committee on Child Abuse (ISCCA) in Geneva, Switzerland and among the informal Expert Advisors (1984-86) to the IUCW Restructuring Commission under Sir Leslie Kirkley.

Pat Light was IUCW’s International Liaison Officer in Geneva, Switzerland. Ms. Light also had the lead staff responsibility for IUCW’s ISCCA and was IUCW’s staff liaison officer with the IUCW Restructuring Commission. Ms. Light later held senior positions at UNICEF and at the Bernard van Leer Foundation.

Joining Sir Leslie, Mr. Davis and Ms. Light at the first meeting in London in September 1986 were:

  • Kalle Justander, Executive Director – Central Union for Child Welfare (CUCW) – Finland
  • Hakim Landelius, former Secretary-General of Radda Barnen (Save the Children) – Sweden
  • Ursel Becker, International Liaison Officer for Arbeitsgemeinshaft fur Jugenhilfe (AGJ) – Germany

This exploratory group was named The Kirkley Group (1986-1988) under Sir Leslie as its Chair.

The Kirkley Group met throughout 1987-1988 and concluded in Worthing, England (June 1988) after a positive report by Defence for Children International from an international survey of child welfare organisations commissioned by the Kirkley Group.

A result of the survey was the expansion of the exploratory group to include:

Dr. Lily Rilantono, 2nd Vice President of Indonesian Child Welfare Foundation (ICWF) – Indonesia
Luigi Majno, President of Asilo Mariuccia – Italy
Mary-Ellen Rood, President of Hope for Children International – USA
Olivier and Liliane Ziegel, President of Centre pour Protection de l’Enfance – France

In Worthing, the Kirkley Group became known as the IFCW Preparatory Group, transitioning from Sir Leslie to the leadership of Kalle Justander as the Honorary Organising Secretary of the IFCW’s Preparatory Group and, along with Ursel Becker of AGJ and Alan Davis of NCCAFV, serving as the Preparatory Executive Committee during the 1988-89 pre-founding period.

Kalle Justander and Finland’s Central Union for Child Welfare (CUCW) proposed to organize the International Congress on Working for Childrens Rights at Haikko Finkand on 16-18 June 1989 – in cooperation with Defence for Children International. This important conference was the appropriate opportunity for the founding of the International Forum for Child Welfare, with the event keynoted by James Grant, Executive Director of UNICEF and Under Secretary-General of the United Nations on the eve of the World Summit on the Rights of the Child at the UN.

Regrettably, Sir Leslie died in January 1989, just six months before IFCW’s founding meetings in Haikko.

Alan Davis served as the Chairman of the founding meetings and was elected IFCW’s first President.
Kalle Justander was elected IFCW’s first Vice President.

Also elected at the founding meetings:

Tom White (CEO of NCH- Action for Children – UK) as IFCW’s first Secretary;
Hartmut Engel (Vice President of AGJ – Germany) as IFCW’s first Treasurer.

Elected as the first Members-at-Large of the IFCW Executive Committee were:

  • Rolando Quiros (CEO of FEILAT – Costa Rica);
  • Dr. Lily Rilantono (Second Vice President of ICWF – Indonesia);
  • Joyce Umbima (CEO of Child Welfare Society – Kenya)

The IFCW’s mission, as envisioned by the founders, is to encourage, nurture and strengthen new child welfare initiatives which first take the form, in most countries, of small, developing child welfare nongovernmental organizations that depend on collaboration and technical assistance for capacity building.

The IFCW WorldForum is convened as a non-conference event where emerging national non-governmental child welfare organization’s executive leadership mutually share current successes and challenges with established child welfare NGO executives who share cutting edge capacity building (how to) technical assistance that strengthens and enables each participating NGO to better implement the Convention on the Rights of the Child in its own country, culture and society.”

The IFCW was granted consultative status with the United Nations in 1995. UN consultative status gives the IFCW official access to UN facilities throughout the world, provides IFCW with UN reports and current data related to child welfare, and allows the IFCW input into relevant UN meetings and sessions.

During its twenty five year history. IFCW Presidents were (in order of service):

Alan Davis (USA), Michael Jarman (UK), Ernesto Caffo (Italy), Paul McCleary (USA), Andal Damodaran (India), Owen Keenan (Ireland), Rolando Quiros (Costa Rica), Bruce Rivers (Canada), Catriona Williams (UK-Wales), Niresh Ramklass (South Africa), and currently Theresa Costello (USA).

IFCW WorldForum – the Summit meeting for non-governmental child welfare organization’s chief executives have convened in:

Cologne, Germany (1990), Venice, Italy (1991), Monterey Peninsula, California – USA (1992), Cambridge, England (1993), Chennai, India (1994), Puntarenas, Costa Rica (1995), Mont Gabriel, Quebec – Canada (1996), Faro, Portugal (1997), Manila, Philippines (1998), Helsinki, Finland (1999), Sydney, Australia (2000), Limerick, Ireland (2001), Honolulu, Hawaii – USA (2002), Cape Town, South Africa (2003), Buenos Aires, Argentina (2004), Tallinn, Estonia (2005), Vancouver, BC – Canada (2006), New Delhi, India (2007), Cardiff, Wales – UK (2008), Jakarta, Indonesia (2009), New York, NY – USA (2010), Melbourne, Australia (2011), Naples, Italy (2012), IFCW’s 25th Anniversary Year WorldForum – Helsinki, Finland (2014).