During the year 2000 the Member States of the European Union (EU) realized the need to promote a comparison of the condition of children and adolescents and of the related policies followed at the national level. Considering that these subjects do not fall under EU authority, the EU Member States felt the need to encourage an exchange of information and decided to create a European Childhood Day (to be celebrated around the 20th November) and a Permanent Intergovernmental Group, named L'Europe de l'Enfance, aimed at introducing the mainstreaming of children's policies and the rights of the child in all EU policies.
Among the reasons leading up to the creation of L'Europe de l'Enfance there was the need to better understand the living conditions of children in Europe, the policies and the best practices followed by the different Member States, to develop comparative studies and common investigating and operational methods of approach in order to fight a growing number of transnational phenomena which have a negative impact on children and their rights.
To develop its activities and its comparative studies on childhood and adolescence, L'Europe de l'Enfance needed a technical and scientific instrument. In 2001, during the Swedish Presidency of the EU, the Belgian Observatory was assigned the feasibility study on a European Network of Centres and Observatories on Childhood. The Belgian Observatory worked in collaboration with the Italian National Centre.
After a series of preliminary meetings held between October 2001 and December 2002, under the Belgian and Spanish Presidencies, the Network was officially launched in Florence, on 24th of January 2003, during the first official Assembly of the Network Members. The Assembly decided to name the Network "ChildONEurope", standing for "European Network of National Observatories on Childhood".