CDF Year in Review | December 2016



U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Sylvia Burwell and then Acting U.S. Secretary of Education John King put the national spotlight on the Children’s Defense Fund’s decade-long collaboration with AASA, The School Superintendents Association citing our school-based child health outreach and enrollment model as a best practice. With a joint guidance letter and toolkit, together they encourage local education and health care entities to forge partnerships to promote student achievement.



The 2016 Children’s Defense Fund-NY Beat the Odds® Awards Gala honors Roger Ferguson, LaTanya Richardson Jackson and Samuel L. Jackson and five extraordinary high school seniors in New York City at The Pierre. The youths’ stories of hardships overcome capture the hearts of generous CDF supporters who help us raise more than a million dollars to further CDF’s Leave No Child Behind® mission. This is the first of six successful CDF Beat the Odds celebrations, followed by one in Minnesota, Ohio, Texas, Washington, D.C. and California.


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"I honestly could not imagine life without CDF Freedom Schools program. It has made me a more joyful person and educator, and I know it has had the same impact on my staff and our scholars. " 

CDF plants seeds for child advocacy in our youth leadership development programs. Keely Smith is a shining example of how those seeds grow and flourish. While pursuing a master’s degree in Exceptional Student Education at Florida State University, Keely spends the summer of 2014 as a CDF Freedom Schools® intern. In 2015 Keely is running a CDF Freedom Schools site serving 50 children in a rural community near her home in Tallahassee. In 2016 as Co-Executive Director, she helps create partnerships with Florida State University and Florida A&M University to provide the infrastructure to support two sites serving 100 children. In 2017 she will run three sites and serve 150 children.



Marian Wright Edelman becomes only the second person to be twice-honored with Thomas Jefferson Foundation medals — the highest honor the Foundation and University of Virginia bestow. On April 13, she receives the Thomas Jefferson Medal of Citizen Leadership, following her 1992 Thomas Jefferson Medal of Law. Edelman’s second special recognition comes at a major inflection point in our nation’s history as the country confronts continuing massive racial and economic inequality.

The U.S. Supreme Court in Evenwel v. Abbott unanimously upholds the longstanding practice of drawing electoral districts on the basis of total population.  CDF had joined a friend of the court brief defending the practice as an important safeguard for voteless children and their parents who need and deserve representation. CDF applauds the Supreme Court on their decision to ensure all children and families are fairly represented in their local districts, states and nationally.



President Barack Obama announces his appointment of CDF President Marian Wright Edelman to the President’s Board of Advisors on Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). CDF congratulates Mrs. Edelman along with appointees Phyliss Craig-Taylor, dean of North Carolina Central School of Law, and Lillian Lowery, president and CEO of FutureReady Columbus.



Nearly 2,000 college students train with CDF to deliver the fun-infused, culturally diverse and literacy rich CDF Freedom Schools® program. The student-teachers go on to serve more than 11,000 children in 29 states, the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands for six weeks over the summer. While stopping summer learning loss, the empowered children also learn how they can make a difference in themselves, their families, community, country and world. To garner more support for the children and student leaders, CDF launches the successful Road to Freedom fundraising campaign.



More than 500 faith-based advocates gather at CDF Haley Farm for the 22nd Annual Samuel DeWitt Proctor Institute for Child Advocacy Ministry. Among the nearly 300 young adult leaders were about 80 seminary students who enrich our intergenerational conversations about ending the violence of child poverty and racial, ethnic and gender inequality. With the generous support of the Bezos Family Foundation, we offer a track of well-attended workshops with concrete steps on how faith leaders and advocates can help build support for investments in early childhood development and learning in their communities.



U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Sylvia Burwell and U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King Jr. host CDF and AASA, The School Superintendent’s Association to help release our Happy, Healthy and Ready to Learn: Insure All Children! Toolkit. The toolkit, supported by a grant from The Atlantic Philanthropies, shares lessons learned from CDF and AASA’s extensive work with school districts to identify uninsured children through routine annual school registration forms by adding this simple question, “Does your child have health insurance?" then following up to enroll them in health coverage. The event features a roundtable discussion highlighting best practices for getting more students enrolled and using health services. All agree healthy children do better in school and in life.



CDF analyses new data released by the U.S. Census Bureau showing 14.5 million poor children including more than 6.5 extremely poor children were struggling in rich America in 2015 — one million fewer than 2014. With a million reasons to celebrate, it is still a national and moral disgrace that millions of poor children, nearly 70 percent children of color, are left behind in this land of opportunity for some. More than 1 in 5 children under age 5 are poor; nearly half of them live in extreme poverty at the time of greatest brain development. We can change the odds for poor children by expanding and investing in programs we know work to lift children and families out of poverty.


Twenty-nine Superintendents and district leaders, representing 1.5 million students, join CDF and AASA, The School Superintendents Association, for an engaging Superintendent School Discipline Reform Symposium in Chicago. The spotlight is on successful superintendent-led strategies and the challenges they face as they seek to help all children achieve. Discussions center on the importance of reducing suspensions and expulsions and their disproportionate impact on children of color, promoting positive school climate, confronting race, implicit and explicit bias, and using the new Every Student Succeeds Act to promote positive school climate and address exclusionary discipline. CDF-California releases a bold new report highlighting student led efforts to reform school climate and discipline practices in Long Beach Unified School District, the third largest in California.



The Children’s Defense Fund honors former Secretary of State, CDF Alumna and the first woman to win the popular vote for President of the United States of America, Hillary Rodham Clinton and five extraordinary youths at the 2016 Beat the Odds® Celebration in Washington, D.C. The event garnered major national and international press coverage reaching well over 100,000,000 people with Hillary Rodham Clinton’s first public appearance since the 2016 presidential election results. The audience was deeply moved by her call for everyone to work together and never give up. “Under Marian’s leadership, the Children’s Defense Fund works to give every child a healthy start, a head start, a fair start, a safe start and a moral start in life. And I cannot think of a more noble or necessary mission,” said Hillary Rodham Clinton. CDF president and founder, Marian Wright Edelman closed the evening with a rousing call to action.



CDF celebrates the results of multi-year partnerships that lead to positive changes for children. In California, CDF worked with human rights advocates, youth rehabilitation experts, faith leaders and government officials to lead the nation by banning solitary confinement for juveniles for periods longer than 23 hours. In Texas the result of multi-year collaborations leads to improvements in children’s health, progress on enrollment and providing more care with in-school health clinics.

As children face enormous threats in all directions – from the repeal of the Affordable Care Act that could double the number of uninsured children to tax reforms and budget cuts that could eviscerate the programs we know work to lift children and families out of poverty. CDF needs you and all our partners more than ever. Please help us create a mighty roar for children in 2017.   

Choose Love over Hate

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CDF never gives up in our fight to ensure every child in America a Healthy Start, a Head Start, a Fair Start, a Safe Start and a Moral Start in life and a successful passage to adulthood with the help of caring families and communities. We are grateful for two generous anonymous donors who have given us the challenge of raising $450,000 by the end of the year. That means that every gift to CDF this month only will be doubled dollar-for-dollar up to $450,000.

Please consider doubling the impact of your tax deductible gift and helping us reach our goal before the end of this year.

Thank You


All of us at the Children's Defense Fund wish you a happy new year!  We are grateful for all you give to children though the year. Thank you for supporting the movement for children!


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