Forward for Children | April 2018

Honoring Birmingham Children’s Crusade in Action


Children were the frontline soldiers and transforming catalysts in America’s greatest moral movement of the twentieth century – the movement for civil rights and equal justice.

On this 55th anniversary of the Birmingham Children’s Crusade, Children’s Defense Fund will join Jack and Jill of America, Incorporated and more than 2,000 children and adults in Birmingham, Alabama to remember, honor, and follow the example of the children who stood up to fire hoses and police dogs, went to jail by the hundreds, and finally broke the back of Jim Crow in the city previously known as “Bombingham,” by (re)committing to end gun violence and child poverty in the United States.

On May 5, 2018 we will live stream a memorial service from the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church. It starts at 11:30am ET. Tune in and share with others


Family First Act - Keeping Children Safely with their Families

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As National Child Abuse Prevention Month comes to a close and we move into National Foster Care Month, Children's Defense Fund (CDF) continues to work to ensure the new Family First Prevention Services Act (Family First) will truly help children. A child is abused and neglected in America every 47 seconds. To keep all children safe, we must get help to families early to prevent maltreatment and treat it, and then get children and parents extra help when problems continue so children can remain safely at home rather than enter foster care. Family First guarantees states resources to provide quality substance abuse and mental health prevention and treatment and in-home parenting supports for children at risk of entry or re-entry in foster care. It also offers new help for grandparents and other relatives who often step in to assist when crises arise. The Opioid Crisis and increasing demands on the child welfare system make Family First a critical piece of the action needed to keep every child safe. Learn more about Family First and urge your state child welfare agency to make it work for children. 


New Data Show Educational Inequities Persist

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Black children, other children of color, and children with disabilities continue to be disproportionately suspended and expelled from school, referred to law enforcement or arrested, and subjected to seclusion and restraint according to the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights’ (OCR) newest Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC). Collected over the 2015-16 school year, data are from more than 17,000 school districts; 96,000 schools; and 50 million students.  Almost half (49%) of the students were White, 26 percent Latino of any race, 15 percent Black, 5 percent Asian, 3 percent two or more races, 1 percent American Indian or Alaska Native, and 0.4 percent Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander. The new CRDC data reinforce findings from the recently-released Government Accountability Office (GAO) report that used CRDC data from the 2013-14 school year and on-site interviews and found similar disparities in exclusionary and punitive discipline.

Despite continuing high rates of suspensions and expulsions, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos continues to threaten to withdraw the 2014 joint Departments of Education and Justice school discipline guidance package that addresses such inequities in discipline and reinforces the non-discrimination requirements under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, suggesting it has failed in its goal. To the contrary, the guidance should be preserved, highlighted and distributed more broadly. It reaffirms the obligations school district leaders and those directly serving students have to ensure discrimination does not interfere with students’ rights to learn and to succeed.  As Marian Wright Edelman said in her recent Child Watch Column “No Turning Back“, these educational inequities must be confronted to help repair the harm and ensure educational equity for all. 


Children’s Defense Fund Joins the Opportunity Starts at Home Campaign

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The Children’s Defense Fund is excited to join over a dozen leading national organizations in the Opportunity Starts at Home campaign, a multi-sector housing campaign to meet the rental housing needs of the nation’s low-income people. Housing affordability is central to achieving better child outcomes, improved health, higher educational attainment, and longer lifetime earnings. Homelessness, unstable housing, and the unavailability of affordable housing all have dire consequences. And the critical demand far outweighs the supply for those most in need. Federal housing assistance reaches only 1 out of 4 eligible low-income households. It’s way past time to make adequate and safe housing accessible to all of America’s children and families. Join the Opportunity Starts at Home campaign. Contact your Members of Congress to urge their support for stable, safe, affordable housing.  This May 1–8 participate in the “Our Homes, Our Voices” National Housing Week of Action, with events across the country including letter-writing campaigns to elected officials, meal- and story-sharing, community discussions, meetings with elected officials, and nonpartisan voter registration drives. 


CDF Proctor Institute – a Catalyst for Social Change

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“If you want the opportunity and the chance to meet, hear, and see history in the making, come to this Institute. It opens your mind, heart, and soul to issues you didn’t think were important or relevant and drives you do to more and better.” 

                                                Joi Adams, first-time participant

Now is the time to register for the 24th annual Samuel DeWitt Proctor Institute for Child Advocacy Ministry (Proctor Institute). Join us July 16–20, 2018 at CDF Haley Farm in Clinton, Tennessee.  This year’s theme is “Realizing Dr. King’s Vision for Every Child: Ending Child Poverty.” On the 50th anniversary of the Poor People’s Campaign announced by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and carried out after his death by Marian Wright Edelman and countless others, the 2018 Proctor Institute will look back at where we’ve come from, examine where we are today, and explore what more we must do to realize Dr. King’s dream and end child poverty in our nation. Four plenary sessions will help us connect the civil rights movement then and the children’s movement now as we hear from intergenerational voices. Don’t miss hearing and learning from Dolores Huerta, President and Founder of the Dolores Huerta Foundation, Dr. William Barber II, founder of the Moral Mondays Movement, Rev. Jim Lawson, nonviolent direct action organizing strategist for Dr. King, and Taylor Branch, historian and author, and many others.   

Learn more and register today! Early bird special ends TODAY! Help us spread the word. Download and share this flyer with your community.


Child Defender Fellowship Program Graduates Its First Cohort

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Passionate about justice? Want to ensure all children in America have equal opportunities? Be a Child Defender. We are now recruiting for the second cohort of the Child Defender Fellows. Learn more and submit an interest form today.

We are excited to announce the Child Defender Fellowship Program has graduated its first class! During the past seven months, more than 100 Child Defender Fellows from across the country have gained a deeper understanding of policy issues affecting children and strengthened their advocacy and organizing skills. They contacted members of Congress in support of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA), and the Child Care for Working Families Act. They met with local leaders. They built action teams to bring positive change in their communities. And they acquired the tools to help them sustain their efforts as they partner with other child advocates in their states.

We are proud of all of the accomplishments of our first Child Defender Fellowship Program class, and we look forward to seeing them put their passion into practice.


Making a Difference for Children in Texas, New York, and California

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On April 8, in Austin Texas, Children’s Defense Fund-Texas co-hosted a community Town Hall for Our Lives. In a packed auditorium at the William B. Travis High School, students from the Austin area discussed with their elected officials the ways to reduce gun violence – particularly in schools. More than 20 students shared their stories of loss, pain and fear caused by gun violence. Students urged lawmakers to focus on students of color in legislative reforms: “Though securing our safety is important, I don’t think increasing the presence of police in our schools is the answer, at least not if [the police] don’t also receive cultural competency training, because it can result in the over-policing of students of color,” one student said to a round of applause. Students committed to both voting and getting many of their peers to vote. Learn more about Children’s Defense Fund’s Protect Children Not Guns campaign and different ways you can join.

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Children’s Defense Fund-New York continues its advocacy work on behalf of unaccompanied migrant children who have found a home in New York after fleeing prevalent poverty and violence in regions of Central America. Their latest report, “Unaccompanied Migrant Youth: Service Needs and Gaps in the New York Metropolitan Area,” identifies challenges unaccompanied minors and their caretakers face, highlights the gaps in needed services, and offers recommendations for addressing these challenges. The report, the result of the 2016 partnership with UNICEF USA, shows unaccompanied migrant youth are a vulnerable population with complex needs and when provided with appropriate services and support, they can thrive as productive and valuable residents of New York or future U.S. citizens.

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Children’s Defense Fund-California continues to build the positive potential of young people with its youth leadership and development program. Youth advocates from CDF Beat the Odds Scholarship and Long Beach Youth Action Scholars programs traveled with CDF-California staff members to Joshua Tree National Park in March to participate in the Storytelling Retreat. For three days, training participants immersed themselves in storytelling, exploring peer narratives, learning the framework of oral history and the importance of intergenerational writing. “When asking the narrator questions, I could envision how the person felt at that moment when they were 12 years old—that was transformative for me,” shared Maria Luisa Gonzalez, one of the participants.


Register to Vote

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Your local, state and national elections are closer than you may think. Check your registration status or register to vote, request an absentee ballot, or update an address on-line. After you’re done, encourage your friends and family to do the same.


Child Watch® Columns

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

Only the Truth Will Set us Free

No Turning Back

Child Opportunity and Stability Starts at Home

Remembering Dr. King



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