This paper investigates some meanings attributed to the rights of children and adolescents within a range of institutional discourse in Brazil and Colombia which gravitates simultaneously on two social-legal axes: one based on a doctrine of “irregular situation” and the other based on the doctrine of “integral protection”. Both legitimize specific logics of protection and assistance in terms of which children and adolescents are instituted as subjects of public tutorship. The first axis establishes a logic of minority which renders children and adolescents simultaneously as subjects of compassion and repression; the second creates a logic of civil rights which constitutes children and adolescents as subjects of rights. Yet it is the logic of minority which is giving substance to the legal sensitivities of those who are responsible for both the management and the operationalization of public uardianship, even in contexts where social management of the civil rights of children becomes significant in national political agendas. Among other issues such logic has as its ally the social value of family harmony, which sustains the definition and evaluation of the categories of children, adolescent and minor.