Youth Justice


Is your child learning to make a difference this summer? If she is enrolled in a Children’s Defense Fund (CDF) Freedom Schools® summer program, you’ll know the answer is definitely yes! Proudly rooted in the American Civil Rights Movement and the courageous efforts of college-age youths to make a difference, the CDF Freedom Schoolsprogram provides summer and after-school enrichment that helps children fall in love with reading, increases their self-esteem, and generates more positive attitudes toward learning. Children are taught using a model integrated curriculum that supports children and families around five essential components: high quality academic enrichment; parent and family involvement; civic engagement and social action; intergenerational leadership development; and nutrition, health, and mental health. Classes are taught by college-aged servant leader interns. The CDF Freedom Schools model embraces CDF’s mission and encourages children and young adults to excel and believe in their ability to make a difference in themselves and in their families, schools, communities, nation, and world through hope, education, and action.

Service is a key part of the CDF Freedom Schools experience, and every year sites across the country participate in coordinated National Days of Social Action. This year’s National Days of Social Action are focused on ensuring every child a Healthy Start in life and access to affordable, seamless, and comprehensive health and mental health coverage. The recent landmark national health reform legislation signed by President Obama will give 32 million people in America, including more than 95 percent of all children, access to health coverage previously beyond their reach. CDF Freedom Schools site coordinators, servant leader interns, and students were a critical part of this victory. During CDF Freedom Schools National Days of Social Action over the past two years, more than 12,000 youths across the nation held rallies, marches, had Congressional visits, and mounted letter-writing campaigns urging Congress to support health reform for all children. This year, children are able to see that their efforts really can make a difference.

Now it’s time to sign children up for the health coverage for which they are eligible. This year’s CDF Freedom SchoolsNational Days of Social Action will involve a month-long campaign to enroll children in health coverage through the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which may have another name in some states, and Children’s Medicaid. Throughout the month of July, CDF Freedom Schools sites across the country will hold outreach and enrollment events to link children to health coverage.

The need is urgent. One in every ten children—8.1 million—in the United States is uninsured. Two-thirds of these children are eligible for CHIP and Medicaid but are not enrolled because of state barriers to coverage. CHIP and Medicaid provide low-cost or free health coverage for uninsured children and comprehensive benefits including doctor visits, vision, dental and mental health services, prescriptions, shots and immunizations, x-rays, hospitalization, specialty care, basic prenatal care and more. During the CDF Freedom Schools National Days of Social Action campaign, Freedom Schools sites and their local partners will be working to make sure uninsured children in these programs and their siblings are linked to CHIP, Medicaid, or local health clinics.

They’ll also be making sure college servant leader interns are aware that the new health reform legislation also helps young adults under the age of 26 now qualify for their parents’ health insurance plan if they are not receiving health insurance from an employer, and will encourage them to take this message back to their college campuses. Finally, during the National Days of Social Action CDF Freedoms Schools staff will also be working to contact local school superintendents to encourage them to hold Back to School enrollment drives to make sure uninsured children get health coverage. Children whose vision or hearing needs, attention deficit disorder, or toothaches go undetected do not learn. Child enrollment action and energy must not end in July, but keep going into the school year and help as many children and youths as possible.

CDF Freedom Schools programs are reaching 9,600 children at 142 sites in 29 states and 84 cities this summer, so the National Days of Social Action are an extraordinary opportunity to enroll uninsured children in health coverage—and once again, allow CDF Freedom Schools children and staff to make a difference. To find out how you can support CDF Freedom Schools National Days of Social Action, contact the CDF Freedom Schools site nearest you.