Child Defender News | April 2015

Progress: School Districts Promote Child Health

Thanks to the support of The Atlantic Philanthropies, this month CDF with our partner AASA, The School Superintendents Association, brought together teams from seven school districts in California and Texas at CDF Haley Farm in Tennessee for a Community of Practice meeting. We are working together to get all students in those districts the health coverage they need to learn and succeed in school. CDF’s model for school-based health outreach and enrollment is built around a simple question: “Does your child have health insurance?” The engaged school districts add this question to their school enrollment form or other school registration materials. Parents who answer “no” or “don’t know” are then flagged and receive information from school district staff on Medicaid and CHIP or other health coverage. Parents also receive application assistance and an introduction to partners who help them successfully navigate the enrollment process. Superintendents, principals, teachers, and other staff gain a firsthand understanding about the clear links between children’s health, school attendance, and ability to achieve in school. The district teams train school staff on application procedures, expand outreach to parents through community activities and focus on how to incorporate best practices so they can be sustained over time. To learn more, watch this video.

Bringing it to Scale

New legislation passed in California last fall, Assembly Bill 2706, provides an opportunity to get all school districts in the state to add the question to enrollment forms. Public schools in California will have three school years to add an informational item to enrollment forms, or amend an existing enrollment form, to provide parents information about health insurance coverage options and enrollment assistance — a great chance to add our question.

What You Can Do

Check with your school district and ask what they know about students with no health coverage. Are students who are absent seeing doctors or stuck at home with no access to health care?  Can children replace broken glasses or must they go without because they have no health coverage?  Are there children with no health coverage in school with undiagnosed juvenile diabetes? Health coverage is the link to health care, regular school attendance and enhanced school performance. Learn more about our work.

Children Benefit from Bipartisan Support

Thank you for answering our calls to action to give all children in America a healthy start. Your voice made a difference. Now children and families are assured access to the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and the Maternal and Infant Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) Program for at least the next two years. Extended funding for both was included in the “doc fix” legislation passed by Congress with strong bipartisan support in mid-April. Please continue to make the case for how children benefit from these programs. CHIP now reaches more than 8 million children and its extension will help ensure that they are not moved to health exchanges where they would receive fewer benefits at greater cost. MIECHV funds voluntary evidence-based home visiting programs in every state that promote healthy development, greater school readiness, expanded parental involvement, economic self-sufficiency and reduced maltreatment. Take a moment to thank your members of Congress for their support.

National Foster Care Month

May is National Foster Care Month and an opportunity to focus on the special needs of the more than 400,000 children in foster family homes, group homes and child care institutions. Here are steps you can take in your family, extended family, faith community, or broader community to help with their needs. First, stay connected to the Children’s Defense Fund child welfare policy team to learn about policy improvements. Ask your state and congressional representatives how they are helping children in foster care. Consider becoming a foster parent or an adoptive parent to a child who has been in foster care. If you are a relative of a child in care, consider becoming the child’s permanent guardian. Volunteer as a Court Appointed Special Advocate for a child. Educate your congregation or an organization you are part of about the needs of foster children and how to engage and support them.  Does your place of employment provide internships for youth in foster care and opportunities for longer employment? Are there scholarships or special supports for youths in foster care available from your colleges and universities? Reach out now.

Happy 20th Anniversary Freedom Schools

Let me tell you who you are. You are the rainbow in the clouds for people whose faces you have not seen yet, whose names you don’t know yet, whose histories you haven’t been told yet. And you are, each one of you, individually, privately, each one of you is a rainbow chosen to be in the clouds for somebody.   - Maya Angelou in 1995 at CDF Haley Farm

Message from Marian Wright Edelman

I will never forget the indomitable Dr. Maya Angelou coming to Haley Farm in Tennessee for the graduation of our first small class of CDF Freedom Schools servant leaders, our teachers. Her limousine pulled up on the farm, she got out in full academic regalia, came under our small tent in front of Haley Lodge, and made all of us feel like this was the most important graduation ceremony in the world. Twenty years later her words still ring true.

The CDF Freedom Schools program is an important part of our work to ensure a level playing field for all children and to keep the spark of hope alive in every child. Since 1995, more than 135,000 children have fallen in love with reading in a safe environment and been inspired to make a difference in their own lives and in their communities.

Let’s make this milestone anniversary a summer full of bright rainbows of hope for our children. Please show your support with a donation today.

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First Class Servant Leader

La’Mont Geddis was in the first class of servant leaders and has been a rainbow in the clouds for many children for 20 years, sharing the CDF Freedom Schools way with public school students, some of the most challenging to reach and teach in the Washington, D.C. area. While studying education at Howard University in 1995, Geddis heard about the CDF Freedom Schools program from a professor. He left class, went to the nearest pay phone, called CDF and signed up.

Geddis says much of what he knows about children and how to reach them came from that experience: “I wish I could mandate Freedom Schools for all schools of education.” The beginning of his long list of lessons learned is “understanding poverty... I found out there’s emotional poverty and love poverty and mental poverty, and that’s what makes up an inner city school. These children are victims of poverty, and sometimes, hurt people — hurt people. So how do you help them, not exclude them, and give them a voice? That’s what CDF Freedom Schools training helped us understand.”

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Proctor Early Bird Registration

Now is the time to register for the 21st annual Samuel DeWitt Proctor Institute for Child Advocacy Ministry. Join us July 20-24, 2015 at CDF Haley Farm in Clinton, TN as we renew our spirits, refocus our vision, and strengthen the movement for all children in America. Early bird discount ends May 31st. This year’s theme is “How Long Must I Cry for Help? Bending the Arc Toward God’s Vision of Justice for Children.” Attendees will enjoy morning devotions, Bible study, plenary sessions on pressing children's concerns, interactive advocacy and organizing workshops, and end each day with interfaith worship and our gospel choir. Don't miss the chance to get fired up by the nation's great preachers and leaders with a heart for children and passion for justice.


The opposite of poverty is not wealth. The opposite of poverty is justice,” says Bryan Stevenson, the man who’s been called America’s Mandela, founder of the Equal Justice Initiative and member of CDF’s Board of Directors. He has argued cases before the U.S. Supreme Court, and won for children. We no longer have a death penalty for juveniles and life in prison without parole for children, another kind of death sentence, has been all but banned. You won’t want to miss this Great Teacher.

And you won’t want to miss the great father and son preachers, our Co-Pastors-in-Residence, the Rev. Dr. Otis Moss Jr. and the Rev. Dr. Otis Moss III — dedicated to the struggle to save our children, to the freedom movement, to keeping democracy alive, and to the Proctor Institute at CDF Haley Farm.

Dr.-Otis-Moss-Jr.jpg"Haley is a special place. Some people talk about inclusion and diversity. … This is a multiversity, a multiversity that helps universities remain relevant. It is a college of commitment. It is a high school of integrity. It is the luncheon ground of greatness. I cannot say enough about this special place at this special moment in our history.”The Rev. Dr. Otis Moss Jr.

Dr.-Otis-Moss-III.jpg“One generation is fighting against segregation, but this generation is fighting against mass incarceration. One generation fought for Brown v. Board of Education, but this generation fights for equal funding for all schools. One generation is looking for common ground, but this generation is trying to stop Stand Your Ground. One generation is fighting for the right to vote. Another generation is fighting against voter suppression. One generation is dealing with sharecropper plantations, and this generation is dealing with prison plantations.”  The Rev. Dr. Otis Moss, III

Join us. Register today and take advantage of our special early bird discount to receive $50.00 off five-day adult registration price of $400.00. Seminarian student and Individual day registration also available.

Needed: One Caring Adult

This month the Children’s Defense Fund honored 10 outstanding high school students in Minneapolis and Columbus, celebrated their resiliency, and rewarded them with Beat the Odds® scholarships for college. Their inspirational stories are filled with overcoming the challenges of poverty, homelessness, hunger, and abuse with the help of at least one caring adult to achieve academic excellence and give back their communities.

Be inspired. Watch their stories. Be that one caring adult that transforms a child’s life.

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Kaylyn Sigman

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Britiny Lee

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Alberto Jones

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Ayriq Sims

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Walter Thompson

Next month, CDF-Texas will celebrate their five Beat the Odds scholars at a luncheon in Houston. The celebration takes place Thursday, May 21, 2015 at The Hilton Americas Hotel-Ballroom of the Americas, in downtown Houston from 11:30am-1:00pm.

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Alisa Hamilton

Dayana Sosa

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Laurie Nowlin

Nelly Mendoza

Ruth Rodriguez

If you are in the Houston area, we hope you will register for the event and support these young leaders. If you are unable to attend please support CDF’s Beat the Odds Scholarship program by giving as generously as you can. Your support today, will change our children and our country tomorrow. 

If you missed any of Marian Wright Edelman’s Child Watch® Columns this month — take the time to catch up now.

“Stuck Outside the Poor Door”

"Thank God for Peanut Butter and Jelly—PB and J—Day"

"Big Winners and Big Losers in the House and Senate Republican Budgets"

"Let's Give Child Hunger a Summer Vacation"

Thank you for your continued dedication to CDF's Leave No Child Behind Mission®.

Please share this message with your networks and encourage them to join our mailing list.


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