Archbishop Paul Gallagher: ‘Leave no child behind’ means pursuing best interests of all children

“The Holy See supports a holistic approach aimed at ensuring the integral growth of the child,” said Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher in an address on the occasion of the World Conference on Early Childhood Care and Education (WCECCE).

Church sponsored care

The Vatican’s Secretary for Relations with States and International Relations went on to emphasize the care provided by some 20,000 orphanages and nurseries operated by the Church worldwide, aimed at assuring that “no child is left behind.”

Their efforts, he said, “promote education for girls; they allow children living in the street, children with disabilities and children on the move to regain their dignity; they foster a culture of respect for child’s physical and psychological integrity, while providing for their food, hygiene, and basic health needs.”

Pursuing the best interests of all children

Archbishop Gallagher insisted that “‘leaving no child behind’ means pursuing the best interests of all children, enabling them to learn, create, think, and interact with others in a warm and loving environment.” At the same time, he expressed the Holy See’s concern that “ideological drifts” could compromise “the very understanding of the child’s best interests.”

The role of parents and family

In his address, the Archbishop also emphasized that concern for the well-being of children “should be inseparable from the involvement and accompaniment of parents, especially mothers,” and reiterated “the importance of supporting the family as the primary place of early childhood education and care.”

Finally, Archbishop Gallagher said “it is a duty for States to guarantee the physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual conditions, conducive to the child’s integral development,” while at the same time emphasizing the need for states to collaborate with other qualified organizations, including the Church, in order to ensure “the full suitability of the educational system to the real needs of the child.”