Under the UN Convention, all children have the right to be protected from harm. However, there are barriers to the effective protection of children from Black and minority ethnic communities who are at risk of harm. This paper will explore these barriers in the context of three case histories and with reference to the literature. The cases illustrate some of the ways in which children are at risk and how the system currently fails to protect them. There are factors which increase the risk of harm faced by children or which reduce the likelihood that abuse in minority ethnic communities is recognized, acknowledged or dealt with appropriately. Other factors prevent effective partnerships with families, both to prevent abuse and in rehabilitation after abuse has occurred. Stereotyping, colour blindness, cultural deficit and inadequate training of professionals lead to failures in the statutory processes designed to protect children. These are compounded by wider societal factors, such as denial of abuse in ethnic minority communities, cultural differences in attitudes to disability and child-rearing, the vulnerability of women in highly patriarchal communities, difficulties in providing mental health services across cultural boundaries and a lack of settings in which to provide appropriate alternative care and places of safety. Copyright © 2002 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.