Key Immediate Action Steps

Tens of thousands of youth are being funneled down life paths that often lead to arrest, conviction, incarceration and even death. The urgent challenge for each of us and for our nation is to prevent this waste of our children's lives and our nation's capabilities. Here are ways that individuals, families, communities, organizations and elected officials can help end the Cradle to Prison Pipeline.


  • Mentor a child.
  • Volunteer at an after-school program for youth.
  • Vote in every election and advocate for children.
  • Educate elected officials about the Pipeline.
  • Host a house party to educate others about the Pipeline and what they can do to dismantle it.
  • Volunteer with children who are homeless or in foster care.
  • Organize a forum on incarcerated youth and the funding disparities between prisons and education in our nation.
  • Volunteer your talents or professional services to help a single-parent, kinship care or foster care family by babysitting, inviting them to events with their children, or providing transportation.
  • Invite youth to events at the next educational level (i.e., taking a high school student to a college basketball game).


  • Spend quality time with your family (i.e., family game night, eating meals together).
  • Join the PTA, a parent support group, or other school group.
  • Attend school activities and/or volunteer in the  classroom.
  • Consistently praise your child’s achievements in school and extracurricular activities.
  • Establish and maintain a supportive home learning environment.
  • Create daily homework routines and limit television viewing.
  • Offer tutoring and homework help to your children or younger siblings.
  • Offer to run errands or help around the house.
  • Communicate with and listen to your child.
  • Talk and actively listen to children within your extended family.
  • Show affection, love and respect to your child every day.
  • Do something fun with your child or sibling.
  • Adopt a foster child or become a foster parent.


  • Institute a "Cradle Roll" within your faithbased institution or community, linking every child to a permanent, caring family member or adult mentor who can keep them on track and get them back on track if and when they stray.
  • Promote learning by starting an after-school program for children.
  • Ensure that at least one caring community member attends every public school student suspension meeting or court hearing.
  • Encourage families to spend quality time together by hosting a movie or game night at your church.
  • Start a support group for single-parent or kinship care families.
  • Provide job opportunities and guidance for families and youth in need.
  • Create college scholarships for children from disadvantaged, foster care and kinship care families.
  • Work with school officials to develop and adopt more child-appropriate discipline policies and procedures.
  • Reach out to youth who are homeless or in foster care.
  • Prepare care packages of new clothes, personal toiletries and/or a welcome gift for children placed
    into foster care homes.
  • Hold events to celebrate the strengths of our children and provide college scholarships and
    leadership opportunities to youth.
  • Start a halfway house and counseling program for youth who have run away.
  • Create a summer job opportunity for a youth.
  • Create and distribute a community resource manual so that parents know where to turn for help for their families.


  • Invest in prevention and early intervention.
  • Host a health fair to ensure all children who are eligible for Medicaid or your State Children’s Health Insurance Program are enrolled.
  • Provide free tax filing assistance to low-income working families.
  • Educate families about how they can apply for Food Stamps, Head Start, federal nutrition programs and other similar benefits.
  • Create and distribute a calendar of free family-friendly community events.
  • Start a parent education program to familiarize parents about conflict resolution in the home and how to advocate for their children.
  • Encourage alternatives to incarceration such as restitution, community service, electronic monitoring, drug rehabilitation treatment or placement in a “staff secure” (but not locked) community corrections facility.
  • Work to ensure that counseling, social services, education, and health and mental health services are provided to at-risk youth.
  • Fund reinvestment in urban communities, such as parks, schools and roads.
  • Write annual child and gun violence reports to track the killing of children and call for effective gun control measures and nonviolent conflict resolution training.
  • Host a Cradle to Prison Pipeline Summit to connect and educate others about the Pipeline and ways to dismantle it.

Government Agencies

  • Bring other elected officials and leaders together to gain first-hand awareness of the status of your local children; demonstrate what is working and what is not.
  • Ensure children in foster care and detention receive quality treatment to address their mental, behavioral and emotional needs.
  • Promote high quality children’s television programming and access to other quality electronic media.
  • Provide high quality early childhood development programs for all.
  • Ensure all children and pregnant women access to affordable, seamless, comprehensive health coverage and services.
  • Establish policies that emphasize prevention and rehabilitation to keep children out of or rescue them from the Pipeline.
  • Expand "second chance" programs for high school dropouts, ex-offenders and at-risk youth to secure GEDs, job training and employment.
  • Reduce repeat offender rates by focusing on treatment- and family-oriented approaches.
  • Make sure every child can read at grade level by 4th grade and graduate from high school able to succeed in post-secondary education and/or work.
  • Organize state and local leadership councils or committees to create strategic plans to address the learning and developmental needs of children.
  • Invest money in community-based rehabilitation centers and treatment programs to serve as an alternative to juvenile detention and prison.
  • Stop the criminalization of children at increasingly younger ages.
  • Create partnerships with local businesses, schools and/or churches to create quality exit programs for those leaving the juvenile justice system as a way to start them on the "Pipeline to Success."