Internships at CDF

Since its inception, the Children's Defense Fund has welcomed hundreds of college students and recent graduates to participate as interns in CDF's mission to Leave No Child Behind®. Whether at CDF's national office in Washington, DC, or at one of CDF’s state offices, interns have proven vital to CDF's work. Interns provide administrative and program support to CDF's professional staff; draft memoranda on current and future policy issues, conduct research, track legislative activities, attend hearings and coalition meetings, and participate in a wide-range of other CDF activities.

CDF interns gain knowledge, skills and experience for a lifetime commitment as a child advocate and public policy leader; get an insider's view of non-profit advocacy and become a part of our strong network of servant leaders.

Term

Typical Months

For Best Consideration

Summer June - August February 1
     
Fall September - December July 1
     
Spring January - April November 1
     

Learn more about our different internship programs, apply and visit our FAQs below.

Policy

CDF’s Policy group seeks interns to work on the issues described below. Interns might work on a single issue or on multiple issues depending on need and interest:

Child Health 

The Child Health staff works to ensure that every child has a Healthy Start in life.  Their primary policy goal is to ensure all children have access to affordable, comprehensive health coverage that is easy to get and to keep.  Work includes policy analysis, legislative and administrative advocacy, research and coalition building around implementation of the Affordable Care Act, Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), the federal budget, and other elements of maternal and child health policy.

Child Welfare and Mental Health

The Child Welfare and Mental Health staff works to improve outcomes for children and youth by promoting public policies, practices and programs that will keep children safe and in permanent nurturing families and communities. Particular attention is given to those policies and programs that serve or advocate for children who have been abused or neglected, or are at risk of abuse and neglect; are in families challenged by substance abuse, mental health problems and domestic violence; are being raised by grandparents or other relatives; have serious emotional problems and need mental health services, and/or are at risk of coming to the attention of the child welfare system. CDF uses a range of advocacy strategies to address these concerns.

Early Childhood Policy

CDF fully supports the need for consistent, quality education beginning in a child’s earliest years. CDF's early childhood staff works to promote high quality early childhood experiences for ALL children. One of the main areas of work is spearheading the national campaign to focus public attention on ensuring all children have access to free full-day kindergarten. CDF works with other early childhood advocates and professionals to promote additional funding for programs serving low income children birth through five years of age.

Education Policy

CDF is committed to ensuring that every child in America attends a school that is warm, welcoming and where learning happens.  CDF intends to transform the Cradle to Prison Pipeline into a system where every child has the opportunity to grow, learn and maximize their potential.  CDF’s seeks to achieve those goals by: reforming school discipline policies that push children out of school, ensuring all children have access to full-day kindergarten and strengthening the Title I program that provides federal funding for the education of children in concentrated poverty.

Juvenile Justice

CDF strives to ensure that fewer children encounter the juvenile justice system and the adult criminal justice system and that those who do receive the help they need to thrive.  To that end, efforts are made to address the holistic needs of children and youth (1) at the front end (prevention and diversion), (2) during time spent in the juvenile justice or adult criminal justice systems, and (3) the back end (upon release and reentry into the community).  Focusing on these three points will allow the “justice” part of juvenile justice to have true meaning by focusing on youth development, rehabilitation, and family engagement/strengthening families.  CDF’s juvenile justice work includes advocacy, coalition building, policy analysis, and research.

Policy Research

The research team within CDF’s policy unit supports the organization’s policy efforts by analyzing data, preparing timely and pertinent reports and fact sheets, and conducting rapid response research for internal and external data requests. Policy research interns will work across all of CDF’s issue areas, identifying federal and other data for use in fact sheets, reports, and other CDF publications. Policy research interns will also summarize new reports, attend briefings and hearings, and research issues areas to support the policy team’s work. This opportunity is ideal for applicants seeking a broad exposure to all of CDF’s policy issue areas. 

CDF has a long history of publishing reports that raise awareness about children’s needs and highlight solutions (See our Research Library on the CDF website). CDF seeks masters level interns to assist with analysis of data and research to support development of CDF publications across a range of issues. Policy research interns will work across all of CDF’s issue areas, analyzing federal and other data for use in fact sheets, reports, and other CDF publications. Possible issues that interns might work on include: child poverty, health care access, education, early childhood, juvenile justice, child welfare and gun violence. This opportunity is ideal for applicants with a quantitative background and an interest in social justice for children.

Preferred Policy Research Qualifications:

  • Strong quantitative skills. Basic statistics background.
  • Basic knowledge of Stata or SPSS. Strong excel skills.
  • Experience with federal data sources (Census, NCHS, HHS, DOE, etc.)
  • Commitment to social advocacy and CDF’s mission to be a voice for all children in America.

Policy Internship Primary Responsibilities:

  • Identifying and researching initiatives in health, early childhood development, education, poverty, child welfare, gun violence, juvenile and criminal justice to address the needs of children and families
  • Tracking and analyzing federal and state legislation
  • Monitoring, analyzing, and summarizing policy developments,  the federal budget, research briefs and studies that relate to children, low income families, and other key issue areas
  • Attending hearings and briefings, both on and off Capitol Hill, that are relevant to CDF’s work, and writing succinct summaries to share with the policy team 
  • Contributing to the development of issue briefs, fact sheets, and other materials relevant to our work for publication or the website
  • Rapid response research for internal and external data requests
  • Participating in the educational component of the CDF internship program, including luncheons, seminars, and trips
  • Other duties and projects as assigned

Policy Internship Preferred Qualifications:

  • Ability to work effectively and calmly in a fast-paced, high-pressure environment with daily deadlines
  • Strong organizational and analytical skills
  • Ability to organize facts and present issues in a clear, concise, and logical manner, both orally and in writing
  • Strong internet research skills
  • Self-starter who is comfortable working independently
  • Demonstrated interest in learning about policies that affect children and low-income families.
  • Commitment to social advocacy and CDF’s mission to be a voice for all children in America
  • For those interested in policy research, strong excel skills and ideally experience using a statistical software packaged (Stata or SPSS), and experience with federal data sources (census, NCHS, HHS, DOE, etc.)
Youth Development & Community Outreach

CDF’s Youth Development and Community Outreach Program seeks interns to work on the focus areas described below. Interns might work on a single issue or on multiple issues depending on need and interest:

CDF Freedom Schools®

CDF Freedom Schools programs use CDF's Black Community Crusade for Children® (BCCC)® program and local community-based organizations, churches, public schools and colleges/universities to provide literacy-rich summer programs in communities where those opportunities are limited or nonexistent.

Primary Responsibilities

  • Preparation and delivery of training and technical assistance for local program staff
  • Outreach to current and prospective CDF Freedom Schools program sites
  • Maintaining outreach data base
  • Compiling information packets,  
  • Creating Power Points and other presentation materials,
  • Developing training materials
  • Drafting correspondence
  • Researching best practices in educational and cultural enrichment after-school and summer programs,
  • Create and maintain financial documents on behalf of the Freedom Schools department

Preferred Experience/ Qualifications

  • Excellent judgment and organizational skills with attention to detail
  • Courteous, supportive, and professional demeanor
  • Excellent verbal and written communication skills
  • Ability to work in a team or individually
  • Ability to work effectively and calmly in a fast-paced, high-pressure environment with daily deadlines
  • Strong organizational and analytical skills
  • Ability to organize facts and present issues in a clear, concise, and logical manner, both orally and in writing
  • Strong internet research skills

The Event Management

The Event Management Intern will play an integral role in the planning and execution of the CDF Freedom Schools® program Ella Baker Child Policy Training Institute’s annual meetings. This candidate will work closely with the organizers responsible for planning and executing three annual training events and will need to complete a wide range of activities. This opportunity requiring clear, effective communication, critical thinking, excellent organizational skills, and attention to detail. This opportunity also requires a person able to work both as part of a team and independently. The candidate must be able to work well under pressure, make decisions and ensure the smooth and efficient running of CDF Freedom Schools program events.

Primary Responsibilities

  • Aid in the planning, coordination, and management of training event logistics including: lodging, food and beverage, transportation, and communication.
  • Assists in the execution and day of event management.
  • Assisting in communications around event management including BEOs, timelines, calendars, reports, and diagrams.
  • Working with the logistics team to coordinate staffing and volunteer requirements.
  • Facilitate planning committee meetings including the drafting of agenda items and taking minutes.
  • Drafting correspondence and outreach to current and prospective CDF Freedom Schools program sites.
  • Create and maintain budget documents on behalf of the CDF Freedom Schools program.

Preferred Qualifications

  • Ability to work effectively and calmly in an innovative, fast-paced, high-pressure environment with daily deadlines.
  • Strong project management skills and the ability to handle multiple tasks and changing priorities on a daily basis
  • Strong written and verbal communication skills, proof reading skills, the ability to work to deadlines and effectively multi-task; ability to communicate in a professional manner with vendors and CDF Freedom School Program partners
  • Experience using Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook

Youth Leadership and Development

The Youth Leadership and Development team is dynamic and focuses on building future child advocates and organizers throughout the nation.

Primary Responsibilities

  • Preparation and delivery of training and technical assistance for local program staff
  • Outreach to current and prospective CDF Freedom Schools program sites
  • Developing training materials
  • Drafting correspondence and responding to site inquiries
  • Researching best practices in educational and cultural enrichment after-school and summer programs

Preferred qualifications

  • Ability to work alone or in groups to accomplish task.
  • Experience in outreach efforts, such as campaigning or canvassing, preferred.
  • Must display incentive to take the lead on various outreach efforts to expose a large number of people to the work of CDF. A sense of creativity encouraged.
  • Ability to work effectively and calmly in a fast-paced, high-pressure environment with daily deadlines.
  • Strong organizational and execution skills.
  • Commitment to social advocacy and CDF’s mission to be a voice for all children in America.
  • Ability to organize facts and present issues in a clear, concise and logical manner, both orally and in writing.

Beat the Odds® Program

The Beat the Odds® scholarship program honors high school sophomores, juniors and seniors who are working hard to overcome tremendous obstacles in their personal lives, demonstrate academic achievement, and give back to their community.

Primary Responsibilities

  • Administrative and technical assistance for local program staff
  • Communicating with CDF state offices to support program development
  • Outreach to current and former Beat the Odds recipients
  • Drafting correspondence and responding to site inquiries

Preferred qualifications

  • Ability to work alone or in groups to accomplish task
  • Experience in outreach efforts, such as campaigning or canvassing, preferred
  • Must display incentive to take the lead on various outreach efforts to expose a large number of people to the work of CDF. A sense of creativity encouraged.
  • Ability to work effectively and calmly in a fast-paced, high-pressure environment with daily deadlines.
  • Strong organizational and execution skills.
  • Commitment to social advocacy and CDF’s mission to be a voice for all children in America.
  • Ability to organize facts and present issues in a clear, concise and logical manner, both orally and in writing.
Communications

Communications Program Internships

The Communications and Outreach Department develops and articulates key public messaging for all of CDF’s strategic priorities, campaigns and rapid response needs.  The department works with all other CDF departments and state offices to promote CDF’s brand and publicize its priorities with coalition partners through outreach to the media, online social networks, video production and other multimedia, print and online publications, online advocacy and email marketing, website content development and other promotional materials.

The Communications Department is led by Vice President of Communications and Outreach Patti Hassler, a Peabody and Emmy-award-winning journalist and a 30-year veteran of CBS News. She served most of that tenure at 60 Minutes, the most watched newsmagazine in the nation. As a Communications Intern you would have the unique opportunity to work with and learn from her. Learn more here.

CDF’s Communications Team seeks interns to work on the focus areas described below. Interns might work on a single issue or on multiple issues depending on need and interest:

COMMUNICATIONS & MULTIMEDIA

Primary Responsibilities:

  • Attend hearings on the Hill, briefings, and coalition events to take notes or tweet
  • Compose Tweets/Facebook posts for CDF social media
  • Assist with research projects for Mrs. Edelman and the Communication’s department
  • Update press lists, assist in putting together press packets for events
  • Assist with gathering daily news clips relating to CDF issue areas
  • Assist with staffing events, symposia, round tables, discussions, etc.
  • Assist with photography when needed
  • Assist with graphic design & editing when needed
  • Assist in organizing photo archives from CDF’s history

Qualifications:

  • Great oral and written communicator; good writer & researcher
  • Excellent organizational skills
  • Basic computer skills including Microsoft Office, web research, scanning, formatting etc.
  • Previous experience in photography and video production preferred (if applicable, send samples)
  • Experience with Photoshop preferred
  • Must be a fast learner and someone who pays attention to detail
  • Someone who is creative, organized, flexible and a fast worker
  • Preferably someone who already is active on social media
  • Archiving experience useful
  • Must have a passion for CDF’s mission
  • NOTE: please indicate if you have a particular expertise or interest in a certain area listed

WEB DESIGN

Interns will work to create interactive and entertaining web content/graphics and to analyze web traffic and emails from the organization.

Primary Responsibilities:

  • Daily website updates for national and state websites
  • Assist Director of Online Communications and Outreach and CDF’s Webmaster with website refresh for multiple CDF websites
  • Create custom graphics for web and social media as needed
  • Assist in email communications development and outreach
  • Assist with social media monitoring and other projects supporting as needed
  • Support online communications initiatives including, email communications, social media, database management, and administrative duties as needed.

Qualifications:

  • Experience with HTML, web content management systems, Excel and Photoshop
  • Experience with Java Script is not required but is a plus
  • Must have a passion for CDF’s mission
  • Must be a fast learner & someone who pays attention to detail
  • Must be a able to create basic website on WordPress or WIX
Non-Profit Management

CDF’s Non-Profit Management Program seeks interns to work in the issues described below. Interns might work on a single issue or on multiple issues depending on need and interest:

Office of the President

The Office of the President is staffed by a team of individuals responsible for coordinating special initiatives and projects and providing administrative and program support to CDF’s founder and President Marian Wright Edelman. Interns assigned to this office work directly under the supervision of the Special Assistant to the President to carry out a variety of tasks needed.

Primary Responsibilities

  • Assist President’s staff with special projects.
  • Develop and maintain President’s database.
  • Web-Based research
  • Drafting of correspondence
  • Assist with mailings and phone banking.
  • Faxing, scanning, photocopying, answering phones, and other administrative duties as assigned.

Preferred Experience/Qualifications

  • Excellent judgment and organizational skills with attention to detail.
  • Capable of working in a fast-paced environment.
  • Courteous, supportive, and professional demeanor.
  • Ability to interact effectively with people at all levels.
  • Excellent verbal and written communication skills.
  • Ability to work in a team or individually.
  • Commitment to social advocacy and CDF’s mission to be a voice for all children in America.
  • Must display incentive to take the lead on various outreach efforts to expose a large number of people to the work of CDF. A sense of creativity encouraged.
  • A required commitment of approximately 15 hours per week.

Development

Interns will be involved with financial record keeping and basic accounting tasks as well as special projects related to financial processes and records.

Primary Responsibilities

  • Research new foundations, corporations and individuals and depending on experience, apply for funding.
  • Help with quality control of direct mailings, proposals and reports.
  • Assist with organizing the Beat the Odds®; Washington DC 2014 event
  • Help maintain the donor database records.
  • Assist with CDF direct mailings. 
  • Generate reports on current donors, lapsed donors and perspective donors. 
  • Some administrative duties.

Preferred Experience/Qualifications

  • High level of attention to detail.
  • Excellent communication skills.
  • Ability to work effectively, independently and collaboratively.
  • Commitment to social advocacy and CDF’s mission to be a voice for all children in America.
  • Must display incentive to take the lead on various outreach efforts
  • A sense of creativity is encouraged
  • Declared major/minor in non-profit business management or related field, disciple or experience. 

Human Resources Internships

Interns will be involved with employee outreach and records maintenance.

Primary Responsibilities

  • Benefits package review and maintenance.
  • Organizing and updating electronic records, forms, and files.
  • Organizing and developing employee relations events.
  • May include general office support (including filing and shredding), clerical, and/or data-entry duties.

Preferred Experience/Qualifications

  • Excellent verbal and written communication skills are essential.
  • A high level of discretion is required.
  • High level of attention to detail.
  • Knowledge of computers and basic office software packages.
  • Ability to work effectively alone or collectively.
  • Creativity and flexibility.
  • A commitment of a minimum of 15 hours per week is required.

Finance

Interns will be involved with financial record keeping and basic accounting tasks as well as special projects related to financial processes and records.

Primary Responsibilities

  • Assisting with account reconciliations.
  • Data entry of accounts payable vouchers.
  • Organizing records and files.
  • Special accounting and finance projects under supervision.
  • May include office support, clerical, and/or filing duties.

Preferred Experience/Qualifications

  • Proficiency in Microsoft Excel.
  • Excellent communication skills.
  • Discretion.
  • High level of attention to detail.
  • Interest in finance and accounting.
  • Some business and accounting classes helpful.
  • Ability to work effectively individually or collectively.
  • Declared major of Accounting, Finance, or related discipline

Information Technology Internships

This division oversees day-to-day operations of CDF's computer system, develops and implements cost-effective technology strategies to support the attainment of CDF's goals. Priorities include implementation of a centralized database system, development and testing of state-of-the-art software appropriate for an advocacy-driven work environment.

Primary Responsibilities

  • Assist with CDF's Intranet
  • Research existing document management technology tools
  • Explore options for enhancing CDF's existing system
  • Provide staff member’s with first line support for diagnosing and resolving computer related problems.
  • Assist with updating IT policies and procedures. 

Preferred Experience/Qualifications

  • A working knowledge of computer systems and a strong interest in computer technology from an organizational perspective are essential to this internship.

Public Engagement

Interns are responsible for assisting in the coordination of CDF activities and ongoing public events across the country. They must be able to work a minimum of 20 hours per week.

Primary Responsibilities

  • Create and maintain project schedules to ensure deadlines are met.
  • Ensure the accuracy of invitations, RSVP lists, programs, and all related details (such as dietary and physical needs of guests).
  • Coordinate all arrangements such as catering, rentals, flowers and custodial services for event set-ups and clean-up.
  • Guarantee accurate and timely processing of invoices and payments related to such events.
  • Maintain appropriate records and briefings for events.
  • Establish clear communication with appropriate CDF departments.
  • Recruit staff volunteers for events as necessary.
  • Manage special projects upon request.
  • Perform administrative and other related duties as assigned.

Preferred Experience/Qualifications

  • Excellent organizational, interpersonal and problem-solving skills.
  • Strong verbal and written communication skills.
  • Capacity to meet deadlines.
  • A calm demeanor under pressure.
  • Team player who displays a courteous and professional attitude in all interactions with colleagues and guests.
  • Ability to prioritize and manage resources competently in the presence of colleagues and guests.
  • Capability to follow processes and assign job duties to team members as necessary to maximize efficiency.
  • Prior experience in special event coordination, customer service and sales preferred.
Application Guidelines

With typically more than 400 applications per year for about 70 internships, CDF's internship application process is highly selective. For highest consideration, it is important to meet the application deadline and satisfy each of the application components.

Application Deadlines

Term

Typical Months

For Best Consideration

Summer June - August February 1
     
Fall September - December July 1
     
Spring January - April November 1
     

Application Components

Each applicant must submit the following components on our online application:

  • CDF Internship Application Form
  • Cover Letter
  • Resume
  • Two References
  • Writing Sample

For any question or concerns, please contact the Internship Coordinator at cdf_interns@childrensdefense.org

Internship Selection Process

CDF requires six to eight weeks from the application deadline to process applications. During that time, the Internship Coordinator will process and evaluate applications and then consult with specific divisions for their decisions. The Internship Coordinator and staff members from divisions will conduct interviews for those applicants under serious consideration for a CDF internship.

Highest consideration is given to those applicants who have demonstrated a strong interest in children and family issues through service, advocacy, or academic studies, and are also supportive of CDF's social policy agenda. The level of knowledge and skill an applicant brings to CDF is particularly important within the context of a specific internship position. Since your internship will be a serious investment of your time and energy, it is important to consider what you hope to gain. This will guide us in finding the best fit.

For program details and FAQs, click here.

Internship Coordinator Contact Information

Contact Information

Internship Coordinator
Children's Defense Fund
25 E Street, NW
Washington, DC 20001
 Phone: 202-662-3507  Email: cdf_interns@childrensdefense.org
Frequently Asked Questions

What topic should my writing sample address?

Though applicants may choose any essay topic, samples should demonstrate writing and reasoning skills. 

How long should my writing sample be?

The writing sample should not exceed 1,000 words.

What should I include in my cover letter?

The cover letter should address the following topics:

  • why you want to intern at CDF
  • a description of prior skills and experience that is relevant to CDF's work
  • insight on your experience in, or passion for, children's issues and advocacy work
  • what you hope to gain from the experience

How long should my resume be and what should it include?

Your resume should be no longer than one page and should  include at least your education, work experience, extracurricular activities, and service experiences.

How should I write my 2 reference letters?

One reference letter should be written by a professor at your most current college or university. Applicants may choose their second recommender. The chosen person should illustrate your qualifications, character, and commitment to servant leadership.

To whom should the reference letters be addressed?

"To Whom It May Concern" or "Children's Defense Fund's Internship Reviewing Committee"

Do I have to be in college to apply?

No. Current, recent and graduate students; along with professionals are eligible to apply.

Are Internship positions paid?

No. CDF Internship positions are unpaid. Applicants may contact educational and non-profit organizations to apply for funding assistance.

Is housing provided?

No. Applicants must arrange for their own housing. Some helpful housing sites are listed below:

Washington Intern Student Housing (WISH)  Capitol Hill Stay  The Washington Center  Trinity College
       
 Catholic University  George Washington University  American University  Howard University
Recent Interns

 
 
 
 Abdu Kiyaga  Bingran Zeng  Cambrey Dent
 Communications Summer 2015  Development Summer 2015  Freedom Schools Summer 2015
     
Jillian Wright Turner Julia Yao Jonathan Klay
Policy, Child Welfare & Mental Health Summer 2015 Policy Summer 2015 Policy Summer 2015
     
Justin Lang Lauren Smith Lindsay Wright
Policy Summer 2015 Freedom Schools Summer 2015 Communications Summer 2015
     
Mackenzie Cate Maggie Filbrandt Omore Okhomina
Freedom Schools Summer 2015 Freedom Schools Summer 2015 Policy Summer 2015
     
Phoebe Roe Sarah Esposito Sophie Bergmann
Policy Summer 2015 Policy Summer 2015 Policy Summer 2015
     
 
Tierra Langley Wendy Briggs  
Juvenile Justice Summer 2015 Communications Summer 2015