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January - March 2020


Failing at greatness

    In January 1967, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. took a rare sabbatical to write what would become his last book: Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community? In the final chapter he raised this question: “Not too many years ago, Dr. Kirtley Mather, a Harvard geologist, wrote a book entitled Enough and to Spare. He set forth the basic theme that famine is wholly unnecessary in the modern world. Today, therefore, the question on the agenda must read: Why should there be hunger and privation in any land, in any city, at any table, when man has the resources and the scientific know-how to provide all mankind with the basic necessities of life?”

    Dr. King’s answer: “There is no deficit in human resources; the deficit is in human will…The well-off and the secure have too often become indifferent and oblivious to the poverty and deprivation in their midst. The poor in our countries have been shut out of our minds, and driven from the mainstream of our societies, because we have allowed them to become invisible. Ultimately a great nation is a compassionate nation. No individual or nation can be great if it does not have a concern for ‘the least of these.’”

Read more Child Watch in this week's SCOOP January 24, 2020, pg. 2

Our children are leading us. Hallelujah!

    In December Time magazine named then-16-year-old climate change activist Greta Thunberg their 2019 Person of the Year—the youngest person ever honored. Time noted that this brave, determined teenager represents a new wave of young people who refuse to accept the world adults have created for them:

    “Her global climate strike is the largest and most international of all the youth movements, but it’s hardly the only one: teenagers in the U.S. are organizing against gun violence and flocking to progressive candidates; students in Hong Kong are battling for democratic representation; and young people from South America to Europe are agitating for remaking the global economy. Thunberg is not aligned with these disparate protests, but her insistent presence has come to represent the fury of youth worldwide… She is a reminder that the people in charge now will not be in charge forever, and that the young people who are inheriting dysfunctional governments, broken economies and an increasingly unlivable planet know just how much the adults have failed them.” Time adds: “Leaders respond to pressure, pressure is created by movements, movements are built by thousands of people changing their minds. And sometimes, the best way to change a mind is to see the world through the eyes of a child.”

Read more Child Watch in this week's SCOOP January 10, 2020, pg. 4

November - december 2019


The greatest Gift in this Holy Season

    This is a holy season for multiple faiths and with our celebrations many of us spend time, money, and energy searching for perfect presents rather than reflecting on what our faith requires of us. It’s wonderful to share special times and gifts with family and friends but too many of us get overwhelmed by shopping for material things for loved ones. I hope parents, grandparents, and all of us will pause and ensure we give our young and each other more important gifts of time, attention, and family rituals—ourselves—that all children need. So many of us are passing onto our children an affliction with “affluenza,” the poverty of having too much that equals too little. Children need adults to show them that the greatest gifts are what they give to others in caring, sharing, and service and not just material things.

    Many families volunteer in multiple ways, sharing and collecting food, clothing, and toys for others and making sure to express our true values—especially caring for our neighbors who have been left behind in our nation. Don’t be afraid to take children to serve meals to the homeless or to engage in discussions at family gatherings about those left out in the cold. Teach them Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s reminder that “Everybody can be great, because everybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and your verb agree to serve. You don’t have to know about Plato and Aristotle to serve. You don’t have to know Einstein’s theory of relativity to serve. You don’t have to know the second theory of thermodynamics in physics to serve. You only need a heart full of grace, a soul generated by love.”

Read more Child Watch in this week's SCOOP December 27, 2019, pg. 2

A Litany of Thanksgiving

Today, I make my Sacrament of Thanksgiving.

I begin with the simple things of my days:

Fresh air to breathe,

Cool water to drink,

The taste of food,

The protection of houses and clothes,

The comforts of home.

For all these I make an act of Thanksgiving this day!

I bring to mind all the warmth of humankind that I have known:

My mother’s arms,

The strength of my father,

The playmates of my childhood,

The wonderful stories brought to me from the lives of many who talked of days gone by when fairies and giants and all kinds of magic held sway;

The tears I have shed, the tears I have seen;

The excitement of laughter and the twinkle in the eye with its reminder that life is good.

For all these I make an act of Thanksgiving this day.

I finger one by one the messages of hope that awaited me at the crossroads:

The smile of approval from those who held in their hands the reins of my security;

Read more Child Watch in this week's SCOOP December 6, 2019, pg. 2

More Truths About Guns in America

On November 6, 17-year-old Da’Qwan Jones-Morris, a former Children’s Defense Fund (CDF) Freedom Schools® scholar from St. Paul, Minnesota, was killed when he was accidentally shot in the chest by a 15-year-old friend playing with a stolen gun in our gun saturated nation. Da’Qwan and a group of friends were playing video games after school when the boy who had stolen the gun a few days earlier pulled it out of his bag to show it to the 15-year-old, who fired it without realizing it was loaded. Da’Qwan, a high school senior, was the co-captain of his football team and excited about applying to college. His mother said she always sought out positive opportunities like the CDF Freedom Schools program, sports, and the church choir to keep her son busy—but she still couldn’t keep him safe.

When will parents be able to protect their children from guns? CDF’s Protect Children Not Guns 2019 report sets the record straight about critical truths you need to know about gun regulations, gun laws, and the gun industry in America to fight the scourge of gun violence in our nation that takes 3,410 child lives a year—one every 2 hours and 34 minutes. It is outrageous and irresponsible that the only unregulated consumer product in America is one that takes the lives of nine children and teens a day and injures another 50.

Read more Child Watch in this week's SCOOP November 29, 2019, pg. 5

The Truth About Guns in America

“Pop, pop, bang, bang

Schools, communities,

houses too

Nobody’s safe, they’re

Coming for you”

– 12-year-old boy in Washington, D.C.

Once again this week the breaking news showed the devastating scenes at a school shooting—this time at Saugus High School in Santa Clarita, California. In a nation with more guns than people, the pervasive fear of gun violence saturates our children’s lives. Why do we continue to allow guns to steal our children’s lives, dreams, futures and childhoods? America’s obsession with guns is fueled by myths and misconceptions—and this misinformation is no accident. For years the gun lobby has actively distorted and blocked the truth. It’s time to set the record straight.

The Children’s Defense Fund’s Protect Children Not Guns 2019 Report shares essential facts about guns in America. The first five facts to know:

Read more Child Watch in this week's SCOOP November 22, 2019, pg. 3


Who have been the mentors in your life—not just people who gave you professional advice, but those who shared important lessons about how to live a good life?

After the Children’s Defense Fund’s last Proctor Institute for Child Advocacy Ministry CDF began the CDF Proctor Institute Book Club—a new opportunity to explore books that complement and enhance the spiritual growth, insights, commitment to justice, and community nurtured at our annual Proctor. It is open to everyone and especially relevant for faith communities interested in child advocacy because it will help people focus on the importance of continuing child advocacy ministry year-round. November’s selection is Lanterns: A Memoir of Mentors, which I wrote to share the stories of some of the people who helped shape my life and some of whom helped transform our national life like Fannie Lou Hamer, Robert F. Kennedy, and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Several were my college and graduate school teachers and role models including historian Howard Zinn at Spelman College and Yale chaplain William Sloane Coffin Jr., with whom I lived during my law school years. But my greatest mentors were my parents and community co-parents in my South Carolina hometown like Miz Tee, Miz Lucy, Miz Kate, and Miz Amie.

Read more Child Watch in this week's SCOOP November 15, 2019, pg. 2

Acting to End Child Poverty

“We’ve had 20 years of presidential debates, and we have never talked about the violence in America of child poverty. We have got to begin to talk more eloquently and persuasively and urgently about doing the things not just to make sure fair taxes are paid by people on the top, but that we deal with the moral obscenity of having the highest levels of child poverty in the industrial world.”

– Senator Cory Booker, October 15, 2019 Democratic presidential debate

The Children’s Defense Fund has been standing with 18-year-old Beat the Odds® scholar Israel Glenn in calling for a presidential debate question about child poverty. It’s been 20 years since presidential candidates have been asked in a debate how they would solve this urgent crisis. Israel started an online petition demanding this question be asked because he doesn’t want another generation of children to experience the burdens of hunger, homelessness, and instability he did. More than 30,000 people and five presidential candidates have joined him and during the last presidential debate Senator Cory Booker spoke up to agree. The fact that the United States has one of the highest child poverty rates in the industrialized world is a moral obscenity and profound threat to America’s future. It’s time to ask all those running for president and public office at every level what steps they will take to end it.

Read more Child Watch in this week's SCOOP November 8, 2019, pg. 2

Elijah Cummings: Champion of Children’s God-given Potential

Our nation’s children lost a great champion in Congress when Representative Elijah Cummings (D-MD) passed away October 17th. He correctly and often called children our living messages to a future we will never see and stood up for their needs throughout his 23 years in Congress. He fought for quality child health care, education, and clean air and water and loudly denounced our cruel policy of separating children from parents at the border and caging them.

In recent months Rep. Cummings was especially visible in defending his hometown after the president called Baltimore a “disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess” and as chair of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform with a significant role in the ongoing impeachment inquiry of President Trump. But in all his positions he stayed focused on doing what he believed right for the future of our children and nation: as he said earlier this year, “I’m begging the American people to pay attention to what is going on, because if you want to have a democracy intact for your children and your children’s children and generations yet unborn, we have got to guard against this moment. This is our watch.”

Read more Child Watch in this week's SCOOP November 1, 2019, pg. 2

October 2019

Protect children not guns

“Sometimes, I sit back and I have to escape from what I see and hear every day.” I hope this opening line of Milwaukee 11-year-old Sandra Parks’ award-winning essay on gun violence will make enough adults wake up and act to stop the slaughter of children. An aspiring writer, Sandra entered her school district’s Martin Luther King, Jr. essay contest in sixth grade with “Our Truth,” her devastating account of growing up in a neighborhood and nation terrorized by guns. “We are in a state of chaos,” she wrote. “In the city in which I live, I hear and see examples of chaos almost every day. Little children are victims of senseless gun violence.”

Two years later on November 19, 2018, Sandra became a victim of the senseless gun violence she described in her essay when she was struck by a stray bullet watching television in her bedroom. She died at 13 with so much of her life left to enjoy.

Read more Child Watch in this week's SCOOP October 4, 2019, pg. 4


Rev. C.T. Vivian’s Wisdom

    Washington, DC--Legendary civil rights leader Rev. C.T. Vivian turned 95 this year, celebrating a lifetime of wisdom and service. Rev. Vivian, a Presidential Medal of Freedom winner, was a leader in the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), a confidant of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and a role model for so many of us in the 1960s era of civil rights activism. He remains an indispensable long haul moral, racial, and economic justice warrior. I am so grateful for his friendship and example.

    A few years ago Rev. Vivian inspired and challenged a receptive Children’s Defense Fund audience of college students when he said he believes young people today are inheriting the world at a unique crossroads in history and that “this is the moment we have waited for.” He explained: “When I say ‘we’ve’ waited for, I’m talking about humankind has waited for. I’m talking about all the great philosophers and thinkers have waited for this moment. We have lived like we have lived, blowing each other up, killing each other, stealing from each other, making a world that is not fit for human beings — we have lived that way because it’s been allowed to be.” But Rev. Vivian said he believes we are finally reaching a tipping point where many are realizing that “today, if we decide to live like we lived yesterday, none of us will live at all.” I truly hope so for our children and grandchildren’s sake!

Read more Child Watch in this week's SCOOP October 11, 2019, pg. 2

God Help Us to End Poverty in Our Time

    Next weekend is our 28th Annual National Observance of Children’s Sabbaths® Celebration, “Uniting Hearts and Voices to End Child Poverty,” when people of every religion will reflect on and respond to the sacred texts, teachings, and traditions that call us to end poverty and act with love and justice to ensure all children have what they need not only to survive but thrive and realize their God given potential. We hope you will join us.


    God help us to end poverty in our time.

    The poverty of having a child with too little to eat and no place to sleep, no air, sunlight and space to breathe, bask, and grow.

    The poverty of watching your child suffer and get sicker and sicker and not knowing what to do or how to get help because you don’t have a car or health insurance.

    The poverty of working your fingers to the bone every day taking care of somebody else’s children and neglecting your own and still being unable to pay your bills.

    The poverty of having a job which does not let you afford a stable place to live and being terrified you’ll become homeless and lose your children to foster care.

    The poverty of losing your job because you cannot find reliable child care or transportation to work.

    The poverty of working all your life caring for your children and others and having to start all over again caring for the grandchildren you love.

Read more Child Watch in this week's SCOOP October 18, 2019, pg. 2


Celebrating the Servant Leadership of Steven Minter

    My friend Steven Minter, who passed away in September, was one of the groundbreaking Black public servants who broke many barriers and opened doors for others and one of the too unheralded but extraordinarily effective leaders people need to know about. Steve was a founding undersecretary of the U.S. Department of Education and longtime leader of the Cleveland Foundation, where he made an enormous difference for Ohio’s children and families. The Children’s Defense Fund was especially grateful for his strong support of CDF-Ohio’s work creating a level playing field for all of Ohio’s children and supporting local high school students beating the odds. Many people do not realize what a strong role foundations play in supporting and strengthening their communities. As a foundation head, university instructor and administrator, and member of dozens of panels, commissions, and corporate and nonprofit boards over his long professional life, Steve was a quiet, effective force for good.

    Steve grew up in Ohio, the oldest of eight children in a family that emphasized service and education. He worked three jobs to put himself through Baldwin Wallace College. One of them was washing dishes in the dining hall, where he met his beloved wife Dolly, who was working as a waitress. As his family remembers: “Theirs was a true love story. Although interracial marriage was still illegal in 22 states, they were married in 1961, the spring of Dolly’s senior year. Over the 56 years of their marriage, Steve and Dolly formed what they described as a ‘partner mentality,’ sharing values of family, community, and the belief that ‘unto whom much is given, much is required.’”

Read more Child Watch in this week's SCOOP October 25, 2019, pg. 2

September 2019


Our all American gun epidemic continues to threaten children

It happened again. On August 31, a gunman in West Texas armed with a semiautomatic weapon killed seven people and injured 25 others. One of the victims was 15-year-old Leilah Hernandez who had just celebrated her quinceañera in May. Her friends remembered her as someone who “could turn a bad day into a good one.” She was walking out of a car dealership next to her 18-year-old brother Nathan who’d just bought a truck he’d been saving up for. Nathan tried to shield her in his arms but was shot and injured too.

Seventeen-month-old Anderson Davis was injured in the face and chest by bullet fragments as she and her twin brother sat in their car seats. These were just three of the children and teens killed or injured by guns on average every day in America. A child is killed by guns every 2 hours and 34 minutes. Some have been victims of mass shootings while others died from accidental shootings, suicides, domestic or community gun violence. Although the majority of young gun victims are White, Black children and teens are disproportionately at risk and are four times more likely to be killed by guns than their White peers.

Read more Child Watch in this week's SCOOP September 13, 2019, pg. 2

Toni Morrison

    “When a child walks in the room, your child or anybody else’s child, do your eyes light up? That’s what they’re looking for.” –Toni Morrison

    When great writer Toni Morrison passed away August 5, 2019 our world lost an incomparable voice. I  always have been especially moved by her portrayals of children, and the knowledge that her care and perceptive attention to children’s emotions and needs did not stop on the printed page.

    I remember gratefully her presence at CDF’s 1999 National Symposium on the Arts and Scholarship held at the Children’s Defense Fund Haley Farm for the dedication of the Langston Hughes Library designed by Maya Lin on the grounds formerly owned by Roots author Alex Haley. The library’s design and construction was made possible by the generosity of Leonard Riggio and his wife, Louise. Len was chair of Barnes and Noble and a CDF Board member.

Toni Morrison joined First Lady Hillary Clinton, Secretary of Health and Human Services Donna Shalala, Secretary of Labor Alexis Herman, Dr. Maya Angelou, Dr. John Hope Franklin, Dr. Dorothy Height, U.S. Poet Laureate Rita Dove, Joyce Carol Oates, Walter Dean Myers, Nikki Giovanni, and more than 200 other guests at the inspiring event. Toni Morrison’s signature remains at the top of the library’s visitors book. She spoke about the role of arts and literature in liberation, enthralled us with a reading from Paradise and graciously moved among her great admirers.

Read more Child Watch in this week's SCOOP September 20, 2019, pg. 2


Ask the Question: When Are We Going to End Child Poverty in America?

    “No child living in America today should have to worry about whether they’ll have a place to sleep at night or enough food to eat. But these are daily realities for the 1 in 6 poor children in this country. Children like me.”

    These are the words of 18-year-old Children’s Defense Fund-Minnesota Beat the Odds® scholarship winner Israel Glenn in a petition to add a question about child poverty to an upcoming presidential debate. Israel continues: “Growing up on the North Side of Minneapolis, I know what it means to struggle. I’ve been homeless, spending school nights sleeping on park benches. I’ve been hungry, not knowing where my next meal would come from. I know what it means to have to work to support your family when you need to be focusing on school. And I know that other kids shouldn’t have to face these struggles. Every child in America should be able to focus on learning, growing and just being a kid.

Read more Child Watch in this week's SCOOP September 27, 2019, pg. 2


We must protect our children America!

Six years ago today, December 14 started off like an ordinary morning in classrooms across our country. Children rushed in to school bundled against the cold, chatting and laughing and trying to contain all of their extra energy and excitement from the bright holiday season. Concerts were scheduled, classroom parties were planned, and teachers were squeezing in their last few lessons before winter break. It was the same in Newtown, Connecticut—but that was the unforgettably horrible day 20 first graders and six adults walked into Sandy Hook Elementary School and never walked back out.

A new moral and human low

by Marian Wright Edelman

It has come to this: tear-gassing toddlers. Heartbreaking images of the American government’s attacks on asylum-seekers at the border have emerged over the past several days. In one photo a barefoot child in a diaper sobs, clutching her mother with one hand and a plastic ball—a lone prized possession—with the other. Her mother, who was pictured in a second photo desperately trying to flee from the tear gas with her two young children, told an interviewer: “I felt sad, I was scared. I wanted to cry. That’s when I grabbed my daughters and ran. I thought my kids were going to die with me because of the gas we inhaled.”

Prayers for the holiday season

All during the Christmas season, as millions celebrate a poor, homeless child Christians call Savior, I think about the irony of some political leaders proposing (and citizens permitting) policies that would result in millions more children becoming destitute, homeless, and hungry and being detained and cruelly separated from their parents at our borders. There are 12.8 million children living in poverty in our nation. Children are the poorest Americans and the younger they are the poorer they are. Nearly one in five children live in families who don’t always have enough to eat. Children are being tear gassed at our border and dying in U.S. custody, like seven-year-old Jakelin Caal Maquin, the little girl from Guatemala who died on December 8 while being held by Border Patrol in New Mexico. Herod is riding rampant across our land again. Lord help us.

Read more at Scoop USA Media, December 28, 2018

A Call to Conscience

January 15th would have been Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s 90th birthday. How should we honor him today? Earlier this month Dr. King’s personal attorney and friend Clarence Jones convened an intergenerational, interracial, interfaith group for the launch of the Gandhi King Institute for Nonviolence and Social Justice to try to answer that question and issued “A Call to Conscience.” It opens:

“Today, as we remember Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., we watch in anguish as many achievements toward a more just and equal society we believed were secure are being eviscerated in front of our eyes.

Read more, Scoop USA Media, January 25, 2019

Moving Forward to Prevent Gun Violence

When 26-year-old Stockton, California councilmember Michael Tubbs was elected in 2016 as Stockton’s first Black mayor, its youngest mayor ever, and the youngest mayor in U.S. history of a city with a population of at least 100,000, he had a mission to make positive change in his hometown. Last year the city made progress towards a key goal: reducing gun violence. Stockton police reported 40 percent fewer homicides and 31 percent fewer shootings between 2017 and 2018 and said increased police resources and community involvement are making a difference. Mayor Tubbs shared his thanks in a social media post: “The murder of my cousin is what brought me back to Stockton after college and I’ve spent the last 6 years as an elected official focused on reducing shootings and homicides and making our community safer…I want to thank Stockton Police Department, the Office of Violence Prevention and community partners like Friends Outside, Fathers & Families of San Joaquin and Advance Peace for the amazing work they did in 2018.” He added: “Let’s continue in 2019.”

Read more, Scoop USA Media, February 1, 2019

Child-Watch Dangerous steps backwards on Discriminatory School Discipline

In January 2014, the U.S. Departments of Education and Justice jointly released a ‘guidance package’ on school discipline to help schools and districts meet their responsibilities under federal civil rights law to use nondiscriminatory discipline practices. Years of data have shown children of color and children with disabilities are disproportionately punished by school discipline practices and suspended and expelled from school. Many schools and school districts have finally begun reforming their policies to promote positive academic and behavioral outcomes for all students and eliminate harsh and exclusionary discipline practices that push students out of school. 

Read More, Scoop USA Media, February 8, 2019



“Eeny, Meeny, Miny, Mo”

“If the justice system does not change incarceration will continue to be as arbitrary as a game of eeny, meeny, miny, mo, with black kids and black men hoping to avoid being ‘IT.’”

Eeny, Meeny, Miny, Mo is the title of this series of paintings by Nashville native Omari Booker, a visual artist who has spent a lot of time thinking about race and mass incarceration in America. He explains that many people may not realize the familiar children’s rhyme the title is based on (eeny, meeny, miny, mo, catch a tiger by the toe, if he hollers let him go…) has racially charged origins: traditional 19th– and early 20th-century American versions use the word n*gger instead of tiger. Booker’s art shows hauntingly how America’s Cradle to Prison Pipeline™ is catching Black boys. 

Read More, Scoop USA Media, February 15, 2019

I will never forget that day

Washington, DC-“ I was in my 4th period Holocaust history class. We were presenting our projects on hate groups found on college campuses…As we sat at our desks working on our computers after presenting our projects, we began to hear loud pops…I thought I was going to die. As I laid there, I begged God to please make it fast… “My classmates pulled me behind a filing cabinet where I called my mom and my dad and said what I thought would be my last goodbyes. I told them how much I loved them, and asked that they please tell my brothers the same. I was so petrified that I began hyperventilating. My classmates had to cover my face so the shooter wouldn’t hear my cries and come back. I will never forget that day. What I saw. What I did. What I experienced. What happened to my classmates.” 

Read More, Scoop USA Media, February 22, 2019

Honoring the Trailblazing Judge Patricia Wald

When President Barack Obama awarded Judge Patricia Wald the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2013, he summed up her career this way: “Patricia McGowan Wald made history as the first woman appointed to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Rising to Chief Judge of the Court, she always strove to better understand the law and fairly apply it. After leaving federal service, Judge Wald helped institute standards for justice and the rule of law at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia in The Hague. Hailed as a model judge, she laid a foundation for countless women within the legal profession and helped unveil the humanity within the law.” This gives a brief sense of what made my friend Judge Wald, who passed away last month at age 90, a trailblazing champion for justice for children and all of us. Early on Judge Wald was an example of the importance of giving every child an equal chance to succeed—girls as well as boys, wealthy and working class.

Read More, Scoop USA Media, March 1, 2019

Jean Fairfax raised the bar

“Someone had to break the pattern, and very often the civil rights revolution was initiated by the most vulnerable Black persons. Many of them were women and many of them were children—tough, resilient, hopeful, beautiful children. The greatest experience of my life was standing with them as they took the risks.”

These words from Jean Fairfax were highlighted in the recent remembrance by the NAACP Legal Defense Fund (LDF) for their beloved colleague, who passed away in February at age 98. Jean was the founder and director of LDF’s Division of Legal Information and Community Services and served at LDF for twenty years before retiring in 1984. In that role she made a quiet but profound difference. As LDF explained: “Over the course of her 40-year career, Jean Fairfax was a pioneering organizer, a professor, a religious scholar, a missionary, and an unparalleled strategist and policy advocate. 

Read More, Scoop USA Media, March 8, 2019

We are still turning our backs on Puerto Rico’s hungry children

Puerto Rico right now.

Unless Congress acts immediately before its recess, 1.4 million people in Puerto Rico, including more than 300,000 children, are at risk of losing some or all of their nutrition assistance in March. As many as 230,000 participants could lose their eligibility entirely. Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens. Allowing these Americans to go hungry is a shameful slap in the face as they continue to recover from an overwhelming As a future agenda, steps must be taken to offer children, families and others in Puerto Rico the same access to SNAP provided to other U.S. states and territories. Immediate disaster nutrition relief is critical and can help identify people who were in need but unserved before the disasters struck. In Puerto Rico it shined a glaring spotlight on the shortcomings of the existing nutrition assistance program. Children and families lose out when Puerto Rico receives Marian Wright Edelman is president of the Children's Defense Fund whose 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. 

Read More, Scoop USA Media, March 15, 2019

Cruel Threats to Hungry Families and Children

Once again children and families are under attack. After failing in past efforts to slash funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, also known as food stamps), the Trump administration is taking a new approach to crippling the program millions of families in the United States depend on to survive and alleviate their hunger pangs. Recently the administration proposed regulations to tighten restrictions on access to SNAP benefits for unemployed and underemployed people who can’t document sufficient weekly work hours. This rule would take food assistance away from an estimated 755,000 people who cannot find work. It is also a callous response to the bipartisan Farm Bill which passed in the fall and rejected harmful cuts to SNAP. If this rule goes forward, it’s not just unemployed and underemployed adults who will go hungry—poor children suffer when adults in their household lose access to food assistance. But it’s not too late to protect these children if you make your voice heard immediately and tell the Department of Agriculture not to take food away from needy families.

Read More, Scoop USA Media, March 22, 2019



American Exceptionalism at Its Worst

Washington, DC- On March 15, a terrorist carrying two semi-automatic weapons and three rifles attacked worshipers at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, killing 50 men, women, and children—some of them refugees who had fled war zones seeking safety. In the hours that followed nearly 70,000 New Zealanders signed petitions calling for gun control reform, and New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern led the nation’s elected leaders in vowing to take swift action. On March 21, less than a week later, Prime Minister Ardern announced the introduction of a national ban on all military- style semiautomatic weapons and assault rifles, high-capacity ammunition magazines, and parts that allow weapons to be modified into semiautomatic guns, as well as provisions for a government funded buyback of existing assault weapons. In her announcement, she said, “I absolutely believe there will be a common view amongst New Zealanders— those who use guns for legitimate purposes, and those who have never touched one—that the time for the mass and easy availability of these weapons must end.”

Read More, Scoop USA Media, April 5, 2019

Standing up Against the Death Penalty

California Governor Gavin Newsom recently took the strong step of declaring a moratorium on the death penalty in California, saying: “Our death penalty system has been, by all measures, a failure. It has discriminated against defendants who are mentally ill, black and brown, or can’t afford expensive legal representation. It has provided no public safety benefit or value as a deterrent. It has wasted billions of taxpayer dollars. Most of all, the death penalty is absolute. It’s irreversible and irreparable in the event of human error.” California now joins three other states—Oregon, Colorado and Pennsylvania— with governor-imposed moratoria on the death penalty and the 20 states and the District of Columbia that have already abolished it. I am grateful to Governor Newsom for being the latest courageous political leader to stand up and reject the death penalty’s shameful legacy and continuing toll. It should be abolished all across our land.

Read More, Scoop USA Media, April 12, 2019

Change the currency to reflect all of us in America

Every day I wear a pair of medallions around my neck with portraits of two of my role models: Harriet Tubman and Sojourner Truth. As a child I read books about Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad. She and the indomitable and eloquent Sojourner Truth represent countless anonymous slave women whose bodies and minds were abused and whose voices were muted by slavery, Jim Crow, segregation and sexism throughout our nation’s history. Although Harriet Tubman could not read books, she could read the stars to find her way north to freedom. And she freed not only herself from slavery but returned to slave country again and again across forests, streams and mountains to lead other slaves to freedom at great personal danger. She was tough. She was determined. She was fearless. She was shrewd and she trusted God completely to deliver her and other fleeing slaves from pursuing captors who had placed a bounty on her life.

Read More, Scoop USA Media, April 19, 2019

Out of sight, out of mind

Baby dolls, tiny trucks, toy food and dress-up capes. Scattered about the ballroom of a motel in Northeast Washington, D.C., and captured in a Washington Post column by Petula Dvorak, these hallmarks of child’s play are not merely a sign of productive imaginations—they’re evidence of a larger child and family poverty crisis that must end in our affluent nation.

Twenty minutes outside the city’s downtown, a stretch of budget motels along a major highway serve as overflow shelters for homeless families in the nation’s capital. They have strict rules about where children are seen and heard. Signs dotting the hallways announce “No Playing on the Hotel Premises” and children are forbidden from gathering in common spaces. The Homeless Children’s Playtime Project, a local nonprofit, reserves event spaces to carve out areas where children can be children. However, the lack of space and high cost of reserving ballrooms and conference halls means pop-up playtimes are much too limited.

Read More, Scoop USA Media, May 3, 2019

Ending Child poverty now

“I would come home and there would be no electricity, I would have no water to bathe in. Sometimes there wouldn’t be food, there would just be water in the refrigerator.”

–Taylor, honored by the Children’s Defense Fund-Texas with a Beat the Odds® scholarship No child should have to worry where her next meal will come from or whether she will have a place to sleep each night in the wealthiest nation on earth. Yet more than 12.8 million poor children in America face these harsh realities every day. It is a moral disgrace, a costly injustice and a profound economic threat that nearly 1 in 5 children are poor in our boastfully wealthy nation. Nearly 4 in 10 of our children spend at least a year in poverty before their 18th birthday and more than 1 in 10 struggle through at least half their childhoods in poverty. More than 2 in 3 poor children are children of color. Most shamefully, our youngest children are our poorest during their years of greatest brain development. Permitting millions of children to live in poverty—many denied basic human needs of housing, enough food and a chance to get ready for school and attend schools with equal funding and quality—is unjust. We are failing our children and our nation.

Read More, Scoop USA Media, May 10, 2019

You cannot win like that

“I can’t do a lot of the extra stuff that I would like to do for my kids or with my kids because I just can’t afford to. No vacations. There’s not too much going to the movies or little outings. Even getting school uniforms together is expensive. Sometimes they have to wear stuff from last year. I have a lot of guilt because I can’t provide for them the way that I want to.”

The Children’s Defense Fund recently released our latest report on Ending Child Poverty Now once again showing just how much poverty is hurting our children and nation and sullying our pretensions to be an equal opportunity society. As part of their coverage of this new report The Guardian spoke with several parents struggling to raise children in poverty today including New Orleans mother Sarah Davis. As their story explains, Davis lost her home in New Orleans when Hurricane Katrina struck.

Read More, Scoop USA Media, May 17, 2019

MAY - JUNE 2019


Staying viligant on Brown

As a teenager, many of Barbara Johns’ wildest dreams were about a surprising subject: a new school. “My imagination would run rampant—and I would dream that some mighty man of great wealth built us a new school building or that our parents got together and surprised us with this grand new building and we had a big celebration—I even imagined that a great storm came through and blew down the main building and splattered the shacks to splinters …” Then a day came when 16-year-old Barbara decided to put her dreams into action. “It was time that Negroes were treated equally with whites, time that they had a decent school, time for the students themselves to do something about it. There wasn’t any fear. I just thought—this is your moment. Seize it!”

Read More, Scoop USA Media, May 24, 2019

Remembering Unita Blackwell

I was deeply sorry to hear of the passing of my friend Mayor Unita Blackwell. She was one of a kind. She was always laughing and making other people laugh and she never stopped growing, learning, rolling with the punches, and punching back when she had to. As a civil rights activist, a member of the executive committee of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party along with Fannie Lou Hamer, and the first Black woman mayor in Mississippi, Unita achieved many “firsts.” She was elected mayor of Mayersville, Mississippi in 1976 and served for more than 20 years. She also became President of the National Conference of Black Mayors, was an adviser to six presidents, and received many honors, including a MacArthur Foundation “genius grant”—but she earned all of those honors the hard way. She spoke movingly of experiencing “emotional violence every day” for her movement work in Mississippi.

She once said she filed a lawsuit against almost every agency and operation of White people in the state of Mississippi and I was fortunate to serve as her lawyer for some of those lawsuits. During one period Unita said she got arrested every day for 30 straight days. She was jailed about 75 times for trying to organize people to register to vote. After 1964, when she joined the movement, she said she never slept uninterrupted for years because she and her family and friends would take turns sleeping and mounting guard against the Ku Klux Klan. She shared with my son Jonah how it felt when a cross was burned in front of her house and showed him the exact spot. But none of this stopped her.

Read More, Scoop USA Media, May 31, 2019

A Summer to remember

As the school year ends and families look ahead to summer plans, I hope many will be able to consider travel that is not just a vacation, but an education and inspiration. Several years ago I had the opportunity to take my granddaughters with me to Selma, Alabama, where they got to meet Mrs. Amelia Boynton Robinson and other civil rights s/heroes during celebrations commemorating the historic 1965 voting rights marches from Selma to Montgomery. Over age 100, Mrs. Boynton was still feisty and lucid in her wheelchair, and told her listeners in the audience: “Stop telling me you stand on my shoulders—get off my shoulders and start building the next roads to freedom.” What a powerful lesson for my granddaughters and all children to hear!

Read More, Scoop USA Media, June 7, 2019

ChildWatch Much more than Summer school

Washington, DC- Close your eyes and think about the words summer school. What comes to mind? If you picture a room full of children clapping, cheering, laughing and falling in love with reading you could be imagining the experience thousands of children across the country are about to have as they participate in the Children’s Defense Fund Freedom Schools® program. More than 1,400 collegeaged servant leader interns, site coordinators and partners came together this week for National Training at historic CDF Alex Haley Farm in Clinton, Tennessee to learn how to teach the “Freedom Schools way,” strategies for productive classroom management, and everything in between so they’ll be ready to lead the six-week summer literacy and cultural enrichment program for more than 12,000 K-12 scholars this summer.

Read More, Scoop USA Media, June 14, 2019

Immigrant children are still children

The Trump administration’s cruel treatment of children and families at the border has not stopped. Children continue to die in the custody of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), including 16-year-old Carlos Gregorio Hernández Vásquez, who died May 20 just hours after being diagnosed with the flu. Despite the law requiring unaccompanied migrant children to be transferred to the custody of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) within 72 hours, Carlos had been held for more than a week in a processing center in McAllen, Texas where CBP said “large numbers” of migrants were displaying symptoms of flu-like illness. When staff there diagnosed Carlos with influenza on May 19, instead of being hospitalized or given additional medical treatment he was given Tamiflu and transferred to the Weslaco Border Patrol Station. The next day he was found unresponsive during a welfare check.

Read More, Scoop USA Media, June 21, 2019

Thank You, MaryLee Allen

 MaryLee Allen was a brilliant, passionate, persevering, caring servant leader—not a self-serving leader—committed to helping build a world fit for children. When the Children’s Defense Fund was brand new, I was searching for smart, passionate people to help with our earliest work. One of the very first ones I found was MaryLee. Immediately after graduating from Marquette University with her degree in sociology MaryLee had come to Washington, D.C. to join the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department, where she prepared research for lawsuits on school desegregation and discrimination in employment and jury selection, and received a special commendation for her work on Alabama school desegregation efforts. Since then she’d continued working as a policy and law researcher, and she joined us to work on CDF’s first-ever policy report, Children Out of School in America. Soon after that she went on to earn her master’s degree in social work from Catholic University but as soon as her graduate studies were done I called again, asking her to work with CDF for just a month while she waited to hear about her next job. Forty-two years later, she was still here. As anyone familiar with CDF’s work knows, for more than four decades MaryLee’s heart, soul, and political and policy expertise have been behind some of the most enduring and successful efforts to help America’s children and families. 

Read More, Scoop USA Media, June 28, 2019

JULY 2019


New levels of shame

It is inconceivable that the latest headlines come from a civilized nation. “Detained Migrant Children Denied Adequate Food, Water & Sanitation in Texas.” “There Is a Stench: No Soap and Overcrowding in Detention Centers for Migrant Children.” “‘The Taliban gave me toothpaste:’ Former captives contrast U.S. treatment of child migrants.”

Last week’s Associated Press report exposed the details of the inhumane conditions and neglect at the Clint, TX Border Patrol station: “Lawyers warn that kids are taking care of kids, and there’s inadequate food, water and sanitation for the 250 infants, children and teens at the Border Patrol station…Fifteen have the flu, and 10 more are quarantined. Three girls told attorneys they were trying to take care of [a] 2-year-old boy, who had wet his pants and had no diaper and was wearing a mucus-smeared shirt when the legal team encountered him…Law professor Warren Binford, who is helping interview the children, said she couldn’t learn anything about the toddler, not even where he’s from or who his family is. He is not speaking…‘In my 22 years of doing visits with children in detention, I have never heard of this level of inhumanity,’ said Holly Cooper, who co-directs University of California, Davis’ Immigration Law Clinic and represents detained youth.” Many children had not had access to a shower or changed clothes since they had crossed the border days or even weeks earlier. Meanwhile Justice Department attorney Sarah Fabian argued in court that the federal government should not have to provide immigrant children with toothbrushes or soap to fulfill its legal obligation to provide them “safe and sanitary” conditions.

Read More, Scoop USA Media Digital, July 5, 2019

Realizing a Dream for our Children

Clergy, seminarians, religious educators, community organizers, young adult leaders and other faith-based advocates in the intergenerational, interracial, multi-ethnic, ecumenical community pursuing justice for our nation’s children will come together at the Children’s Defense Fund’s Haley Farm in Tennessee for the 25th Annual CDF Samuel DeWitt Proctor Institute for Child Advocacy Ministry. The theme for this year’s gathering is “Guide Our Feet: Pursuing Justice for All God’s Children.” As we focus on the many urgent challenges facing children and families right now, especially poor children, those caught up in the mass criminalization of children of color, and children at our borders, in the words of the beloved spiritual we will ask God to guide our feet as we seek to make our nation fit, safe, and just for all children because we don’t want to run this race in vain.

Several years ago South African Archbishop and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Desmond Tutu sent Proctor attendees a video message. An outspoken defender of human rights and campaigner for justice for the oppressed, Bishop Tutu is a prophetic voice in our world today revered for his commitment to fighting poverty, racism and all forms of discrimination against any human beings and his dedication to reshaping our conversations about peace, equality and forgiveness. He shared this timeless exhortation for pursuing justice: “Justice needs champions. Good leaders with the ability to identify the challenges and the tenacity to address them. Good leaders driven not by personal ambition,

Read more ChildWatch, ScoopUSA Media, July 19, 2019, page 2

Dr. Donald Stewart

I was devastated by the loss earlier this year of Dr. Donald Stewart. He and his wife Isabel Carter Stewart have been among my dearest, dearest friends. Donald served as president of my alma mater Spelman College from 1976 to 1986, overlapping with my own tenure on Spelman’s Board of Trustees and then as Board Chair, where he took Spelman to new heights and set it on the path to its standing today as a leading liberal arts and historically Black college ranked #51 on U.S. News and World Report’s list of National Liberal Arts Colleges. I was so proud when Spelman’s robotics team made history in 2005 as the first all-female, all Black undergraduate team to qualify and compete in the International RoboCup four-legged robot soccer competition and several years later tied for first place in a championship in Japan! Spelman is the nation’s oldest historically Black college for women and a shining example of why historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) continue to play a critical role in American education.

Donald, who graduated from Grinnell College, also earned graduate degrees from Yale and Harvard Universities and served as an administrator at the University of Pennsylvania. He understood the importance of solidifying Spelman’s strong academic reputation and nurturing the potential every Spelman student had to offer. When he was chosen as Spelman’s second Black male president following Dr. Albert Manley after a succession of White women leaders, students who had hoped Spelman would choose a Black woman protested by locking in members of the Board of Trustees, tying the door to our board room shut for 26 hours. But in his first address Donald promised he would never let “male ego” get in the way of being the leader Spelman’s students needed.

Read More ChildWatch, ScoopUSA Media, July 26, 2019, page 6

Vaccines, Preventable Diseases and Children’s Health: A Call to Action

I’ve never forgotten my family’s sadness over the senseless death of my childhood neighbor little Johnny Harrington, who lived three houses down from our church parsonage in segregated Bennettsville, South Carolina. Johnny stepped on a rusted nail and died of the resulting tetanus infection because his hard-working grandmother had no doctor to advise her nor the money to pay for health care. Over the last four decades the Children’s Defense Fund (CDF) has fought alongside many others to champion policies and programs that work to ensure every child in America gets vaccinated against preventable diseases like tetanus, polio, and measles.

Yet in 2019 headlines like “New U.S. measles cases break 25-year-old record” are creating fear and worry, especially among parents. How can it be that we are seeing more and more outbreaks of a disease declared eliminated in the United States nearly two decades ago? The answer involves a web of linked factors: the spread of misinformation and falsehoods by a small but vocal number of vaccine opponents, gaps in vaccination coverage, and a national and global increase in outbreaks of vaccine preventable diseases (VPDs). The U.S. has already recorded well over 1,000 cases of measles this year—most of them occurring in children. As we explain in a new brief, this growing crisis is putting our children at risk and must be stopped.

Read more Childwatch, ScoopUSA Media, Page 12, August 2, 2019

Protect Children not Guns

Will our nation ever decide to prioritize children’s lives over guns? Once again the headlines this week were all too familiar: “‘Nothing short of horrific’: Three killed, including two children, in shooting at California food festival.” “Gilroy joins grim fraternity of communities terrorized by mass shootings.” On Sunday, a dozen people were injured by a gunman with an assault-style weapon who fired on the Gilroy Garlic Festival, a beloved annual community event in the city 80 miles southeast of San Francisco. The three people killed were 25-year-old Trevor Irby, 13-year-old Keyla Salazar, and six-year-old Stephen Romero. Keyla’s aunt told reporters that she was eating ice cream with her parents and younger sisters when the shooting started, and stayed behind to try to help an older relative who used a cane. Stephen’s father Alberto told a local television station that he was at home when his wife called to tell him that she, her mother, and Stephen had all been shot. He raced to the hospital where his son was in critical condition only to be told minutes later that Stephen had died: “My son had his whole life to live, and he was only six.”

Read more Childwatch, Scoop USA Media August 9, 2019, page 2

Nobel Laureate Economist Robert Solow’s Clarion call to End Child Poverty

August 23 marks the 95th birthday of the great MIT Nobel laureate economist and 2014 Presidential Medal of Freedom Recipient Robert Solow. As family and friends join him for this milestone, all of us at the Children’s Defense Fund send our deepest gratitude for his generous sharing of expertise, wisdom and concern for America’s children, especially those left behind in poverty. He bolstered CDF’s repeated calls over the decades to end child poverty with impeccable dollars and cents data. What is it going to take to get our money driven, morally impoverished nation to open up America’s dream to all 12.8 million children living in poverty—nearly 5.9 million in extreme poverty?

In his foreword to CDF’s 1994 report Wasting America’s Future, Dr. Solow wrote: “For many years, Americans have allowed child poverty levels to remain astonishingly high—higher than for American adults; higher than for children in nations that are our competitors; higher than from the entire period of the late 1960s and 1970s, a period when we had less wealth as a nation than we do now; and far higher than one would think a rich and ethical society would tolerate. The justification, when one is offered at all, has often been that action is expensive: ‘We have more will than wallet.’ I suspect that in fact our wallets exceed our will, but in any event this concern for the drain on our resources completely misses the other side of the equation: Inaction has its costs, too.”

He continued: “Now, possibly for the first time, we have evidence that we can save money by reducing children’s poverty. The evidence in this volume indicates that ending child poverty is, at the very least, highly affordable. More likely it is a gain to the economy, and to the businesses, taxpayers, and citizens within it. But that should be the icing on the cake. Nobody in this age is so callous as to think of children foremost as a source of profit—at least I hope not. As an economist, I believe that good things are worth paying for, and that even if curing children’s poverty were expensive in the long run, it would be hard to think of a better use in the world for money. If society cares about children, it should be willing to spend money on them.”

Read more Childwatch, August 30, 2019, page