Now in its fourth decade, CDF recognizes numerous accomplishments in its long history as it prepares for more challenges and accomplishments in the future.



  • CDF files successful lawsuit to separate children from adults in South Carolina jails.
  • Children Out of School in America, a CDF publication, documents two million children not enrolled in school, including hundreds of thousands of disabled children.
  • CDF visits 447 jails, which contributes to passage of the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act.


  • CDF helps pass the Education for All Handicapped Children Act (P.L. #94-142), creating the federal right to education; 5.5 million disabled children now attend school.


  • $150 million increase for Head Start passes with help from CDF, the largest increment since the program's founding; since then, Head Start funding has been increased to $4.355 billion.


  • The first safety and minimal quality standards are issued for child care centers with help from CDF.


  • CDF helps pass Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act to protect more than 500,000 children in the child welfare system, after publicizing their plight in a major report.


  • The first annual Children's Defense Budget challenges proposed federal budget cuts in key programs for children and families. CDF assists in defeating efforts to dismantle and put into block grants: Medicaid, Title I Elementary and Secondary Education Act, foster care, and other crucial children's programs.


  • The first CDF non-partisan voting record for Members of Congress is released.


  • CDF pushes for the first steps in Medicaid expansions, which eventually cover all children and pregnant women below the poverty line.
  • The first major child support enforcement amendment is passed with assistance from CDF.


  • CDF advocates for a tax reform bill to include essential relief for millions of poor working families with children.


  • Congress passes $30 billion over five years for new child care, Head Start, health and other child investments — all supported by CDF.


  • CDF launches Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Campaign in 14 states.


  • CDF helps pass the Vaccines for Children program to immunize all children against childhood diseases.
  • CDF's Black Community Crusade for Children® (BCCC®) program starts the CDF Freedom Schools® program, offering children enrichment through a reading curriculum that seeks to foster a love of learning and empower children to make a difference in their families, communities and nation.


  • CDF assists in convincing Congress to pass a crime bill that includes a ban on assault weapons and key crime prevention initiatives.
  • CDF launches 18 CDF Freedom Schools sites across the country, serving more than 1,600 children.
  • CDF purchases the former farm of the late author Alex Haley to use as a site for inspiration, fellowship, networking, technical assistance and training for leaders of all ages and races across the country.


  • CDF leads effort to defeat Contract with America proposals to block grant eight major children's income, health, foster care and nutrition programs.


  • CDF organizes Stand For Children — the largest mass demonstration for children in U.S. history — assembling 300,000 people at the Lincoln Memorial.


  • CDF convenes Child Health Now! Coalition and sparks more than 700 local Stand for Healthy Children Day events in support of the bipartisan Hatch-Kennedy child health bill, which is partially funded by tobacco taxes. The bill is eventually included in the final budget law. As a result, five million uninsured children receive health coverage when fully implemented.


  • CDF launches Child Care Now! Campaign to improve the quality and affordability of child care and after-school care for America's preschool and school-age children.
  • A Stand for Quality Child Care Day is held on June 1, 1998, in local communities across the nation.
  • More than 228 college-age adults are trained at Haley Farm to serve more than 2,300 students at over 34 CDF Freedom Schools sites.


  • Marian Wright Edelman, president of CDF, is awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Bill Clinton and First Lady Hillary Clinton for her tireless advocacy on behalf of children.
  • CDF organizes its ninth annual National Observance of Children's Sabbaths® celebration, which provides churches, mosques, synagogues and temples nationwide with a venue to focus on the many needs of children and to further their commitment to Leave No Child Behind.


  • CDF launches a five-year campaign to make children a national priority. At its core is the landmark Act to Leave No Child Behind, which Senator Chris Dodd and Representative George Miller introduce in Congress on that same day, co-sponsored by 95 of their House and Senate colleagues. This comprehensive bill will help ensure all children in America get what they need to thrive and grow up safe, healthy and educated.
  • CDF launches Wednesdays in Washington® and Wednesdays at Home® campaigns to mobilize concerned citizens at the grassroots level to hold elected officials accountable for their actions.


  • For the first time since Medicaid legislation was enacted in 1965, all children through age 18 living in families with incomes below the poverty level are eligible for health care coverage under Medicaid, due in part to efforts by CDF.
  • A CDF Action Council-led coalition persuades Congress to double the Child Tax Credit from $500 to $1,000, making it possible for more than 500,000 children to escape poverty during the next ten years.


  • CDF marks its 30th anniversary by mobilizing hundreds of thousands of people from across the country to participate in a virtual Wednesday in Washington® call-in — jamming the Capitol switchboard to oppose the Bush Administration's tax and budget plan.


  • CDF engages in a major voter mobilization effort, "Children Can't Vote, You Can," for the general election, registering more than 25,000 new voters around the nation and setting up a central command unit to mobilize people concerned about the future of children in America.


  • CDF sponsors a two-day Cradle to Prison Pipeline® Summit in Washington, D.C., at which it launches its Cradle to Prison Pipeline Campaign and releases its America's Cradle to Prison PipelineSM report. The event brought together several hundred of the nation's most prominent national and community leaders, members of the media, parents and youth in a highly interactive dialogue that explored underlying causes of the pipeline, shared promising approaches and develop a plan of action to halt it.
  • CDF mobilizes more than 1,200 national, state and local organizations to support the Health Coverage for All Children Campaign to cover all children, resulting in more than 182,000 emails to Members of Congress urging them to address this crisis now. Thanks to these efforts, CDF and its supporters helped keep this issue on the front burner and reminded Congress that the public overwhelmingly supports providing health coverage to America's children. With millions of children still living without health coverage, the fight is far from over and we need your help to keep this critical issue in the national spotlight.


2009 and Beyond