March for Our Children | March 2018

Protect Children Not Guns: Beyond the March for Our Lives

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On March 24, 2018 we joined thousands in voice and action at the March For Our Lives in Washington, D.C. and across the country affirming the power of collective voices and amplifying calls to action against gun violence. Marches around the country offered signs of hope and showcased the optimism of a new generation of young leaders and activists.

We must continue building on this momentum and insist on common sense approaches to gun violence prevention:

  • banning assault weapons and high capacity magazines;
  • closing loopholes in the current background check system; 
  • raising the age for the purchase of long guns;
  • raising red flags when law enforcement and family members’ concerns warrant denial of gun purchases;
  • banning devices like bump stocks that allow shooters to increase the rate of fire in their semi-automatic weapons;
  • protecting victims of domestic violence by extending gun restrictions on perpetrators; and
  • ending the ban on federally-supported research on preventing gun violence.

Contact your members of Congress urging them to respond to the passionate demands of young leaders: Protect Children, Not Guns, and vote to support safety for all our children. 


Updates from the Hill


The FY 2018 Omnibus Appropriations Bill, a bipartisan, bicameral package signed by the President just before Congress left for recess, includes important funding increases for key programs for young children, new help for vulnerable families impacted by the opioid crisis, and expanded education, training and employment opportunities for older youth and adults, many helping to make up for prior funding shortfalls.

The $2.37 billion increase for the Child Care and Development Block Grant is an historic increase to help improve both quality and access to child care for working parents. There were also increases for Head Start and Early Head Start, child care for mothers in college and 21st Century Community Learning Centers, as well as a boost for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

To assist with child welfare systems’ response to the opioid crisis, the package also includes $20 million for kinship navigator programs to assist grandparents stepping in to care for grandchildren and a $20 million increase for Regional Partnership Grants to improve cross system coordination to help families struggling with substance abuse. 

The package also included additional funding for education, training and workforce programs that support low-income youth and adults, including those with young families. More than $100 million was added to the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act programs, and there were new resources for apprenticeship programs and student aid. 


Mobilize for Justice: A Call to Students at Seminaries and Divinity Schools!

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The Proctor Institute by itself is a unique laboratory for learning the state of faith-rooted movements for justice, but when curated through a seminary-specific framework and community of learning, it becomes the richest experience of Freedom pedagogy available anywhere in the country.” Ched Myers, activist theologian, author, and Children's Defense Fund (CDF) Proctor Institute faculty

Every July, clergy, seminarians, religious educators, organizers, young adult leaders, and other faith-based advocates for children gather at CDF's Haley Farm in Clinton, Tennessee for the annual Samuel DeWitt Proctor Institute for Child Advocacy Ministry. They come together to discuss strategies, perfect organizing skills, and improve models to help end child poverty, disrupt the Cradle to Prison Pipeline® crisis, and improve the lives of all children in America.

The CDF Proctor Institute has special opportunities for students at seminaries and divinity schools. Dr. Janet Wolf and a diverse team of professors lead a CDF Proctor Institute graduate intensive course for credit. Enrollees should expect an intensive immersion experience. In addition to challenging course work and transformative discussions, seminarians will participate in the Proctor Institute’s program. In the four years since the graduate intensive course was developed with seed funding from the late Dr. Dale Andrews of Vanderbilt Divinity School, the seminary track has quadrupled, with nearly twenty theological institutions now collaborating in what has become the premier context for integrating “seminary, sanctuary and streets” in a collegial community of learning and practice.

Interested? To enroll in Proctor’s seminary track for credit or to encourage your seminary to become a participating institution, contact Dr. Janet Wolf

Checkout the lineup of Great Preachers and Teachers. Register today! Early bird special ends on April 30, 2018.


CDF Freedom Schools® Program Welcomes Dr. Philippa Smithey!

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With great pride we announce the selection of Dr. Philippa N. Smithey as the new Director of CDF Freedom Schools! A graduate of Howard University (B.A. and M.A.) and American University (Ph.D.) with an extensive history of work reflecting her commitment to education, political participation and social justice, Dr. Smithey has been a staunch supporter of grassroots efforts to close the minority achievement gap and increase college access for minority youth, especially those who are the first in their families to attend college.

Dr. Smithey joined the Children’s Defense Fund in December 2015 as a Senior Education Grants Specialist in Development. She retired from the Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) in 2016, after 12 years of service as its grants specialist and held similar positions with the District of Columbia Public Schools and the Alexandria City Public Schools. Dr. Smithey’s work history includes seven years of fulltime and adjunct teaching at several universities—Howard University, American University, Tuskegee University, and Southeastern University. She will join a tremendously dedicated team which has grown over the past year. 


CDF Freedom Schools® Program: Year-Round in Washington DC

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CDF Freedom Schools scholars from Center City Public Charter School Trinidad enjoy their recent filed trip at Newseum

We are excited to announce the opening of two CDF Freedom Schools® program sites in Washington, DC. The sites are at Plummer Elementary School in Benning Heights and Center City Public Charter School in Trinidad. A three-year 21st Century Community Learning Centers grant awarded to CDF November 2017 is enabling more than 100 children from some of the District’s most underserved neighborhoods to experience CDF Freedom Schools for 25 weeks during the school year and six weeks in the summer.

The CDF Freedom Schools summer and after-school program seeks to build strong, literate and empowered children prepared to make a difference in themselves, their families, communities, nation and world. The program helps children fall in love with reading and in the process curbs summer learning losses while closing achievement gaps. Last summer, over 12,000 children in 27 states experienced CDF Freedom Schools.


Welcome to CDF-Ohio, Tracy Nájera!


We are pleased to announce that Tracy Nájera, Ph.D, MPA, joined us on March 5th as the new Executive Director of CDF-Ohio. 

Ms. Nájera brings a long-standing commitment to improving the lives of children and their families to her new role. She began her career with CDF-Ohio as a Research Fellow and went on to work at the Ohio Office of Budget and Management. During her tenure, she served as the Section Chief for Education managing policy and budget priorities spanning early childhood education through workforce development.

Tracy also served for six years as a Senior Director of the Ohio Appalachian Collaborative at Battelle for Kids (BFK), where she managed a federal project with the state of Ohio to improve the efficacy of teachers serving students in Appalachian Ohio. During her time with BFK, she found ways to reconnect and be a supporter of CDF by working in partnership with CDF-Ohio on the 2016 release of Ohio’s Appalachian Children at a Crossroads: A Roadmap for Action report. Prior to joining CDF-Ohio, Tracy worked as a Senior Consultant for Education First Consulting, where she supported school districts and education partners to improve education outcomes and equity for all children. 

“Tracy’s understanding of the complexity of the issues impacting Ohio’s children makes her the ideal person to lead the organization and continue to build what CDF-Ohio has achieved over the years” said Marian Wright Edelman, President of Children’s Defense Fund.


Marching for Children in New York, Tennessee, and Texas

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On March 8, 2018, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio held a youth town hall on school safety to answer questions and listen to recommendations from current students. Children’s Defense Fund-New York Education Justice Intern and high school student, Esaunte Latimer (in the photo above), was one of only a few students able to raise a question and speak before the Mayor in a gymnasium packed with youth from across the city. Esaunte addressed the Mayor’s budget priorities and urged him to invest in more guidance counselors and social workers for under resourced schools.

Our CDF Nonviolent Organizing Team in Tennessee continues its work on disrupting the Cradle to Prison® crisis. We hosted nine law students from Rutgers University for their Alternative Spring Break. Team member Rahim Buford, poet, author, teacher and organizer released from prison 2.5 years ago after being caged for 26 years, led the orientation. Through collaboration with the Public Defenders’ Office, Juvenile Court, Juvenile Detention Center, No Exceptions Prison Collective and Nashville’s Participatory Defense Team, students had almost 300 hours of volunteer legal work. Dr. Janet Wolf took the students into Riverbend Maximum Security Institution to meet with our inside team members, including members of our transformative justice circle on death row.  Students’ comments included: “I now believe all law students should visit jails and prisons before we are permitted to practice law… I initially felt retribution was the most favorable view of the criminal justice system and I now find that to be wrong.  The insiders of Riverbend were exemplary examples of how a mistake does not define you as a person.”

And in Texas, Children’s Defense Fund-Texas has started a multi-year community based effort to improve youth civic engagement in the state. Through the “Youth Civic Education Roundtable” initiative, CDF-Texas plans to bring together practitioners, organizations, educators, academics, and community members committed to improving civic education and youth civic engagement in Texas. By providing a space for sharing information about best practices, model programming, and innovative civic education curriculum, its goal is to improve and increase civic learning in Texas schools. In addition, CDF-Texas joined a state-wide coalition dedicated to improving high school voter registration in the state. Leading this new initiative is Michelle Castillo, a recent addition to the CDF-Texas team. A native Texan, Michelle has been dedicated to improving youth civic engagement since she was in high school.


Are You Registered to Vote?

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“Democracy is not a spectator sport…It is a moral imperative for each one of us to register and vote in our local, state, and national elections this year — and every year.”

Marian Wright Edelman

Your local, state, and national elections are closer than you may think. Register to vote today! And after you’re done, encourage your friends and family to do the same.


Child Watch® Columns


Marian Wright Edelman’s Child Watch® columns this month urge us to take immediate actions to Protect Children Not Guns; protect Dreamers’ hopes and futures; and level the playing field for all children in America. 

Marching For Our Children’s Lives and Nation’s Soul

Our Children Cry: Do Something

Their Lives and Futures Remain on Hold

A 50 Year Plea Persists




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