Change Agents for Children | October 2015

National Youth Justice Awareness Month

Justice for all of America’s children is missing. The unjust and violent arrest of a South Carolina Black child by a White school officer was an urgent reminder this week. Caught on video, you can feel the terror inside that classroom. The Children’s Defense Fund applauds the quick response of the Department of Justice in opening an investigation into the case. Together we can dismantle the Cradle to Prison Pipeline® crisis that criminalizes children at younger and younger ages and sends 1 in 3 Black boys born in 2001 to prison at some point during their lifetime.

Less visible and equally vulnerable are the children currently housed in America’s prisons and jails. For more than four decades, the Children’s Defense Fund has worked with others to create a framework of laws to treat children as children and to end the life-threatening practice of putting children in adult jails. Progress has been made, but as the heart-breaking suicide of Kalief Browder in New York City earlier this year made clear, we urgently need to do more. We need to stop putting children in adult jails, we need to end solitary confinement for all children, and divert all children accused of nonviolent offenses away from the juvenile justice system so they can stay in school and on-track for a successful adulthood.

Please support the bipartisan Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Reauthorization Act (JJDPA). Take a moment to read and share the Act 4 Juvenile Justice Mobilizing Toolkit and make your voice heard.

Juvenile Justice Improvements in California
CDF-CA under the leadership of Executive Director, Alex Johnson, and the relentless efforts of dedicated staff, closed out National Youth Justice Awareness month with significant legislative victories for much needed improvements to the California juvenile justice system. Notable progress includes expanding eligibility for youth offender parole hearings to adults who were under age 23, rather than under 18, when they committed specific crimes; updating fitness criteria used by judges before making the serious decision to send youth into the adult criminal justice system such as the youth’s behavior and ability to grow, mature and be rehabilitated; and requiring over time all California law enforcement agencies to track interactions within their communities to help reduce racial profiling. CDF-CA also partnered with A New Way of Life to cohost the 3rd Annual Justice on Trial Film Festival. This year’s films included, 15 to Life, The Throwaways, and Imperial Dreams and stimulating panel discussions. Help us continue to take action to ensure all children and youth in the juvenile justice system are treated fairly.

Be a Dream Maker
Join award-winning actress Jurnee Smollett-Bell and award-winning journalist Byron Pitts on November 5 for our 2015 Beat the Odds® Celebration at the Newseum in Washington, D.C.


Tickets are still available for what promises to be a magical evening with Donna Shalala, former chair of the CDF Board of Directors; Rev. Dr. Bernard L. Richardson, Dean of the Chapel at Howard University; and Marian Wright Edelman, President of CDF. Since 1995, the Beat the Odds scholarship and servant leadership program has helped make the dreams of hundreds of youths across the country come true. Come stand with five extraordinary high school seniors from the greater Washington, D.C. metropolitan area, hear their stories of resilience and dreams for a positive future armed with a college education. Become a dream maker by donating now — your generous gift will help more deserving youth get the help they need to beat the odds stacked against them.

Happy 30th Birthday
CDF-MN is celebrating a birthday this week— 30 years of progress for all of Minnesota’s children. Under the leadership of Executive Director Peggy Flanagan and a determined staff, CDF-MN has furthered our Leave No Child Behind® mission and helped countless families with children in Minnesota. This summer nearly, 1,200 poor and low-income youth in Minnesota were able to have the CDF Freedom Schools® experience, and with the help of dedicated sponsors, CDF-MN piloted two Native American focused CDF Freedom Schools sites. This spring with strong community support, CDF-MN awarded five Beat the Odds® scholarships to outstanding high school seniors. CDF-MN recent advocacy helped increase investment in the Basic Sliding Fee Child Care Assistance Program, enhance standards of safety and care for incarcerated pregnant mothers, and add significant investments in early childhood education. If you are in the St. Paul-Minneapolis area, please join us October 29 for CDF-MN’s 30th anniversary celebration at Summit Brewing Company (RSVP here). Or donate here to show your support and help improve the odds for all children in Minnesota.

2,500 Uninsured Texas Children Connected to Coverage
Last week, teams from three Texas school districts shared their exciting progress in connecting uninsured children to health coverage. Our Texas partners in the CDF/AASA (The School Superintendents Association) school-based child health outreach and enrollment project have seen firsthand the critically important connections between children’s health and their success in the classroom. The Alief Independent School District (AISD), Edinburg Consolidated School District (ECISD), and Houston Independent School District (HISD) all have added a question about children’s health insurance coverage to their enrollment forms, helped families of uninsured children apply for coverage, and found additional ways to expand health care for children.

Watch the video

To date, more than 2,500 children have been enrolled in health coverage. Some of the districts have seen improvements in attendance. Progress in the Edinburg District has been amplified by a partnership with the Doctors Hospital at Renaissance, which established a new school-based health clinic at the district headquarters. It has already served 2,000 children, parents, and school district staff in its first four months of operation. Another area hospital has committed to activate two mobile vans to ensure children get the health care they need. Learn more about this important work in Texas through their recent videos (ECISD and HISD videos).

Sponsor a CDF Freedom Schools® Site for Freedom Summer 2016
If you want to make a difference in your community next summer, there’s still time to sponsor a CDF Freedom Schools program and join the movement for Freedom Summer 2016. Applications are due November 20, 2015. The CDF Freedom Schools program boosts student motivation to read, generates positive attitudes towards learning, and connects the needs of children and families to the resources of their communities. Since 1995, more than 137,000 pre-K through 12 grade students have had the CDF Freedom Schools experience. More than 16,000 college students have been trained by CDF to deliver the high-quality comprehensive Integrated Reading Curriculum.

Making a Difference for Young Readers
We are grateful to Jack & Jill of America, Inc. which partnered with First Book, to honor the passion of CDF President Marian Wright Edelman to make a difference in the lives and futures of America’s children. Their virtual book drive raised more than $16,000 this month to help build libraries at CDF Freedom Schools® program sites around the country. Thousands of young readers and leaders will benefit next summer by having access to high-quality, culturally diverse children’s books chosen by CDF. A special thank you to all the Jack & Jill chapters who participated! You can still show your support for the CDF Freedom Schools program and honor Marian Wright Edelman by giving as generously as you can. Make a donation today!

This month, Marian Wright Edelman’s Child Watch® columns illustrate how change is key to improving outcomes for all children across the country. When we work together we can change the outcomes for our nation's most vulnerable children, so they don't have to beat the odds stacked against them to make their dreams come true.

Recalling a Time When Congressional Bipartisanship Worked for Young Children

Teaching the Truth About America’s History: Only the Truth Can Make Us Free

Learning Through Loss to Beat the Odds

Progress for Children's Health

Thank you for your support and dedication to improving the lives of all children in America.

When you speak out and stand up for children, you help to change their future. Together we can change the future of our most vulnerable children. Please share our message and mission with your networks. Encourage your family, friends and neighbors to support our work or join our mailing list.

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