Early Childhood Education
Children’s Defense Fund (CDF)
The Children’s Defense Fund (CDF) is a private, nonprofit organization with an extensive track record of research and action on behalf of children. Founded in 1973 by Marian Wright Edelman, CDF has served as a catalyst for effective change on behalf of all American children. Offering a unique approach to improving conditions for children that combines research, public education, policy development, and advocacy activities, CDF has become an important advocate for the nation’s most vulnerable children and families.
The Children’s Defense Fund’s Leave No Child Behind mission is to ensure every child a Healthy Start, a Head Start, a Fair Start, a Safe Start, and a Moral Start in life and successful passage to adulthood with the help of caring families and communities. CDF provides a strong, effective voice for all American children who cannot vote, lobby, or speak for themselves, paying particular attention to the needs of poor and minority children and those with disabilities. CDF educates the nation about children’s needs and encourages preventative investment before children get sick, into trouble, drop out of school, or suffer family breakdown.
The Children’s Defense Fund brings together the national, state, and local infrastructure; networks; experience; and expertise necessary to develop and implement a comprehensive nationwide approach to overcoming obstacles for working families and children. The national and state Children’s Defense Fund offices throughout the country have developed working relationships with social service organizations, religious institutions, and schools and local governments to help eradicate poverty and make children’s issues a priority.
The Children’s Defense Fund helps the United States keep its promise to bring about better choices for children through education, research, advocacy, and organizing. Recent projects include visiting 500 adult prisons to document abuses suffered by children in adult jails, and advocating for changes in penal laws for children. The Children’s Defense Fund also played a major role in generating recognition of and laws for children with special needs. CDF members knocked on 8,500 doors nationwide to report the tragic circumstances of two million children out of school, which led to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).
CDF’s research and advocacy continue to put a child’s face on poverty, discrimination, and gun violence. The CDF’s Children’s Defense Budgets and State of America’s Children yearbooks help activists stop unwise block grants and budget cuts and push for reforms and expansions in critical services like Head Start, housing, Medicaid, and nutrition programs for low-income mothers and their babies. Important laws that CDF has help to pass or are currently supporting include the landmark State Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), the Vaccines for Children Program, the Child Care and Development Block Grant, and the Earned Income and Child Tax Credits.
Each and every year, through direct tax preparation and in partnership with faith-based and other community groups, CDF enables thousands of low-income working families to claim the tax credits to which they are entitled. In one year alone, CDF helped families collect more than $65 million that went directly into their pockets and then back into local economies. CDF Freedom Schools are partnerships between the Children’s Defense Fund and local community organizations, churches, universities, and schools to provide literacy-rich summer programs.
The Children’s Defense Fund achieves its goals through the efforts of the organization’s divisions and a variety of activities. CDF’s Programs and Policy Department includes Child Health, Family Income, Child Welfare and Mental Health, Early Childhood Development, and Education and Youth Development, which engage in ongoing policy and communications efforts. The work of these departments includes speaking at national conferences and at Capitol Hill briefings and other influential forums; producing strategic reports; informing and engaging advocates through coalitions, regular updates, action alerts, and listservs; preparing press releases and editorials; and contributing to testimony, floor speeches, and pending legislation in Congress and in states.
Further Readings: Children s Defense Fund Web Site: http://childrensdefense.org.