Marian Wright Edelman's Child Watch® Columns

Marian Wright Edelman

Marian Wright Edelman is a lifelong advocate for disadvantaged Americans and is the President of CDF. Under her leadership, CDF has become the nation's strongest voice for children and families.

Her Child Watch column is sent every Friday to subscribers and posted to The Huffington Post weekly.


Child Watch Column Archives

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  • 03/27/15
    Child Watch® Column:
    "Time for Justice for Children in New York"
    By Marian Wright Edelman and Melanie Hartzog
    Under New York’s juvenile justice system a child as young as seven can be arrested for a crime, and a 16-year-old is automatically charged as an adult.
  • 03/20/15
    Child Watch® Column: "Don't Leave Children Short"
    Congress is about to strike a deal that takes care of seniors and doctors but leaves low income and “at risk” children short. Congress’ annual struggle to avoid cuts in Medicare reimbursement rates so physicians will continue to give seniors the care they need is widely considered must-pass bipartisan legislation
  • 03/13/15
    Child Watch® Column: "Staying on the March—Right Now"
    Fifty years ago I traveled from Mississippi to Selma, Alabama on March 21st, 1965 to join Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and thousands of fellow citizens marching the 54 miles to the steps of the state’s capitol in Montgomery. Millions of Americans now know about this march thanks to the movie Selma and the recent 50th anniversary celebration. Selma was the site of a courageous voting rights campaign by Black citizens which was met by brutal Southern Jim Crow law enforcement and citizen violence. The nation was shocked two weeks earlier when John Lewis and Reverend Hosea Williams set out on a nonviolent march with a group of 600 people toward Montgomery to demand their right to vote and were brutally attacked by lawless state and local law enforcement officials at the Edmund Pettus Bridge. The televised images of “Bloody Sunday” and the savage beatings of the marchers—including Congressman Lewis whose skull was fractured—were a pivotal moment in the Civil Rights Movement and in America’s struggle to become America. It provoked the thousands of us (ultimately about 25,000) who came together later to finish the march, safer thanks to Federal District Court Judge Frank M. Johnson, Jr.’s order that we had a right to peaceful protest and with National Guard protection. And we were buoyed by President Johnson’s March 15th, 1965 address calling on Congress to pass what became the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
  • 03/06/15
    Child Watch® Column: "Who Are We? What Do We Americans Truly Value?"
    What do we stand for as a nation and who do we wish to be? In a 1968 speech at the University of Kansas, Senator Robert Kennedy correctly worried too many used our vast wealth to measure greatness that said nothing about the goals and values that should matter most in our nation. Our Gross National Product—now almost 19 times larger—includes many things for us not to be proud of. How well is America doing today on the things that should matter most—the well-being of our children and families and the quality of justice and life in our communities and nation?
  • 02/27/15
    Child Watch® Column: "Make Me a Woman"
    One of my sheroes is Sojourner Truth. A brilliant but illiterate woman, she was a great orator and powerful presence who possessed great courage and determination. I often wear a pendant with her image and words: “If women want any rights more than they’s got, why don’t they just take them, and not be talking about it.” An unwavering defender of women’s rights and an abolitionist, Sojourner continues to fuel my determination to fight for equality for women, people of color, and children left behind. She was born into and lived nearly three decades in slavery but dedicated her life to combating slavery and gender inequality and second-class citizenship. She never gave up talking about or fighting for justice and equality. Sarye Huggins is a high school senior who knows her Black history and has also been inspired by Sojourner Truth.
  • 02/20/15
    Child Watch® Column: "No ESEA Bill Is Better Than One That Fails to Protect the Poorest Children"
    For fifty years Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA) has been the primary source of federal funding targeted to schools to serve poor children. Its purpose has been to raise achievement for poor children through extra support to their schools to help meet their greater educational needs. Sadly, from the beginning states didn’t keep their end of the bargain
  • 02/13/15
    Child Watch® Column: "Girls In Justice"
    I’m grateful for a powerful new book, Girls In Justice by artist Richard Ross, a follow up to his moving earlier Juvenile In Justice, which combines Ross’s photographs of girls in the juvenile justice system with interviews he gathered from over 250 detention facilities across the United States. If a picture is worth a thousand words, the deeply disturbing photographs speak volumes. Ross uses the power of photography to make visible the hidden and harsh world of girls in detention. These heartwrenching images coupled with the girls’ ages and life stories should move us to confront the cruel and unjust juvenile justice system in our nation. These girls are ours: our neighbors, our children’s classmates, our daughters and granddaughters, sisters, cousins, and nieces — and, for some young children, our mothers. Girls In Justice begs the questions—why are so many girls, especially girls of color, confined in our nation’s detention facilities, and what are we as a society going to do about it?
  • 02/06/15
    Child Watch® Column: "Push for Progress: Children Cannot Wait"
    The President’s budget released this week proposes billions in critical new federal investments for 2016 and beyond to improve the life chances of millions of poor children. It also would prevent more harmful budget cuts in cost effective child investments while providing essential new investments to decrease the morally indefensible number of poor children (14.7 million, 6.5 million of them extremely poor) desperately in need of hope and help.
  • 01/30/15
    Child Watch® Column: "A Call to End Child Poverty Now"
    It is a national moral disgrace that there are 14.7 million poor children and 6.5 million extremely poor children in the United States of America – the world’s largest economy. It is also unnecessary, costly and the greatest threat to our future national, economic and military security.
  • 01/28/15
    Child Watch® Column: "How to End Child Poverty for 60 Percent of Poor Children and 72 Percent of All Poor Black Children Today"
    Poverty hurts children and our nation’s future. This stark statement is backed by years of scientific research and the more we learn about the brain and its development the more devastatingly true we know this to be.
  • 01/23/15
    Child Watch® Column: "Is America a Sheep or a Goat?"
    “There is nothing new about poverty. What is new, however, is that we now have the resources to get rid of it. Not too many years ago, Dr. Kirtley Mather, a Harvard geologist, wrote a book entitled Enough and to Spare.
  • 01/16/15
    Child Watch® Column: "Celebrating Dr. King Through Serving"
    “If you want to be important—wonderful. If you want to be recognized—wonderful. If you want to be great—wonderful. But recognize that he who is greatest among you shall be your servant. That’s a new definition of greatness. And this morning, the thing that I like about it: by giving that definition of greatness, it means 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.”
  • 01/09/15
    Child Watch® Column: "Every Child Deserves a Fair Chance"
    For many, the start of a new year is a chance to turn over a new leaf and take a hard look at the gap between who we say want and need to be and who we are. As a nation it’s time to close our hypocrisy gap in the treatment of our children and value and protect our children—all of them. We need to examine with urgency how we treat our children and the gap between what we say and what we do.
  • 01/02/15
    Child Watch® Column: "Prayers for Our Children for the New Year"
    In a world rife with war, religious, racial, gender, sectarian, and political strife, when so many children lack safety, enough food, shelter, health care, and education and suffer unthinkable losses of parents to disease, violence, and war, I hope this New Year will bring adults closer to our common sense and moral responsibility for children’s well being.
  • 12/24/14
    Child Watch® Column: "Pondering the Deeper Meanings of This Holy Season"
    After all the shopping and preparation for celebrating Hanukkah, Christmas, and Kwanzaa, I hope we will stop and sit and think more deeply about their meaning in our over commercialized, trivialized, mass selling mania for and to children and deeply stressful time for so many. The poor baby in a manger is lost along with the poor babies crying out all over America for food, shelter, safety, and education in the jingle of cash registers, and the Christian belief that God entered history as a poor child is drowned out in the jungle of commerce and advertising.
  • 12/19/14
    Child Watch® Column: "Thanks to Four Bright Rainbows in Our National Clouds"
    As 2014 draws to a close, I wanted to celebrate four great rainbows for justice who passed away this year but left us a much better people and nation. My brother-friend Dr. Vincent Harding, much loved historian, theologian, social justice activist, and visionary, never lost sight of the “beloved community” his friend and colleague Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. believed our nation and world could become. A close confidant of Dr. King, he helped draft several of Dr. King’s most important speeches, including the landmark 1967 antiwar sermon “Beyond Vietnam.” His books include the powerful essay collection Martin Luther King: The Inconvenient Hero, where he reminded us that too many of us enshrine Dr. King the dreamer and ignore Dr. King the “disturber of all unjust peace.” On his 81st birthday Dr. Harding told a Children’s Defense Fund audience that he believed America was a wounded nation, but still remained convinced we could become a more just nation if all of us committed ourselves to healing America and pushing her to live up to her creed.
  • 12/12/14
    Child Watch® Column: "Progress for Babies, Toddlers, and Preschoolers"
    On December 10th President Obama hosted a White House Summit on Early Education, bringing together a broad coalition of philanthropic, business, education, child advocacy, and elected leaders and other key stakeholders. It was a welcome chance to celebrate progress in expanding access to quality early childhood development and learning opportunities for children from birth through age 5. Although we haven’t yet seen the passage of needed comprehensive legislation to provide low-income and other at-risk children a full continuum of quality supports from voluntary home visiting programs to Early Head Start and Head Start, child care, pre-kindergarten and — I hope — full-day kindergarten, progress has been made in increasing access to and expanding quality programs and building support for future investments.
  • 12/05/14
    Child Watch® Column: "Needed: A True Diversity Map for America"
    Sometimes childhood experiences motivate a lifetime of extraordinary work. That is certainly true for Georgetown University Law School professor and bioethicist Patricia King, a brilliant scholar and one of the most effective leaders you may not know. She’s spent forty years at Georgetown Law School and has long been involved in higher education leadership. A graduate of Wheaton College in Massachusetts and Harvard Law School, she’s served on both institutions’ governing bodies as a member of the Harvard Corporation and the first woman, first African American, and first alumni to chair the Wheaton College Board of Trustees. Earlier this year she gave the Faculty Convocation Address at Georgetown University and spoke movingly about her “life of learning,” explaining that her passions for education and health that have shaped her professional life—and her perspective—are rooted in her segregated childhood in Norfolk, Virginia in the 1940s and 1950s.
  • 11/26/14
    Child Watch® Column: "A Time for Prayer, Thanksgiving, Discernment and Strategic Nonviolent Action"
    In the wake of Ferguson and a series of young Black male deaths at the hands of official law enforcement personnel (and one self-appointed neighborhood watchman who cost Trayvon Martin his life), I hope we will use this November time of Thanksgiving and celebration of Native American Heritage month by some first Americans, as an opportunity for national and personal soul searching and discussion about what it means to be an American. I also hope we will recommit to doing what we can to serve, speak up, and work with others to build a nation where every child is safe, seen, heard, respected and hopeful, and every parents’ son – and daughter – is valued and justly treated
  • 11/21/14
    Child Watch® Column: "Learning to Love What You Have"
    “I decided that my education was the most important thing that I could ever have, because without your education, you can’t do much in this world. Some people find out the hard way. I did not want to be one of those people.
  • 11/07/14
    Child Watch® Column: "Shining Like a Diamond"
    “I decided that my education was the most important thing that I could ever have, because without your education, you can’t do much in this world. Some people find out the hard way. I did not want to be one of those people.
  • 11/07/14
    Child Watch® Column: "Embracing Who You Are"
    “I decided that my education was the most important thing that I could ever have, because without your education, you can’t do much in this world. Some people find out the hard way. I did not want to be one of those people.
  • 10/24/14
    Child Watch® Column: "The Real Monsters"
    Sadly, too many children do not have normal or safe or protected lives and their monsters are real. They do not have closets in many homeless shelters or on the streets or church steps where they sometimes live with homeless parents. They are not safe in drug and violence infested neighborhoods and suffer chronic hunger especially on weekends and during long summer months when school is out.
  • 10/24/14
    Child Watch® Column: "Closer to the Finish Line"
    With opportunity gaps widening for poor children and children of color, new guidance from the Office for Civil Rights in the U.S. Department of Education offers new hope and protection from discrimination.
  • 10/17/14
    Child Watch® Column: "Good News for Children When Congress Works Together"
    While we rarely hear good news these days about Congress, I have some to share. Continuing a long tradition of bipartisan leadership on behalf of abused and neglected children, last month both the House and the Senate passed and the President signed into law the Preventing Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families Act (H.R. 4980/P.L. 113-183). This new legislation improves the child welfare system to prevent children and youths in foster care from becoming victims of sex trafficking and protects foster care youths who are already victims.
  • 10/10/14
    Child Watch® Column: "What About the Girls?"
    On June 1, 1996 the Children’s Defense Fund (CDF) convened with over three thousand co-sponsoring organizations, including the NAACP and many others in the civil rights community, the largest rally for children in our nation’s history. Over 200,000 parents, grandparents, child advocates, religious leaders, and others of every race, age, faith, and discipline from all walks of life gathered together at the Lincoln Memorial to Stand for Children™. Mrs. Parks, honorary co-chair with Rosie O’Donnell, provided an iconic statement that still holds true today as Black children are sliding backwards and child poverty levels are indefensible in our wealthy nation. In 1997 she and Rosie O’Donnell co-chaired the follow-up local Stand for Healthy Children Day.
  • 10/03/14
    Child Watch® Column: "Don’t Mess with CHIP: Seventeen Years of Success"
    On June 1, 1996 the Children’s Defense Fund (CDF) convened with over three thousand co-sponsoring organizations, including the NAACP and many others in the civil rights community, the largest rally for children in our nation’s history. Over 200,000 parents, grandparents, child advocates, religious leaders, and others of every race, age, faith, and discipline from all walks of life gathered together at the Lincoln Memorial to Stand for Children™. Mrs. Parks, honorary co-chair with Rosie O’Donnell, provided an iconic statement that still holds true today as Black children are sliding backwards and child poverty levels are indefensible in our wealthy nation. In 1997 she and Rosie O’Donnell co-chaired the follow-up local Stand for Healthy Children Day.
  • 09/26/14
    Child Watch® Column: "Decriminalizing School Discipline"
    I believe the purpose of public schools is to educate not exclude children and to help identify and meet child needs, not make children serve adult convenience, self interest, and systems. So huge reforms are required in school discipline policies and practices across our nation as school pushout has worsened in past decades with the criminalization of children at younger and younger ages aided and abetted by school expulsion and suspension policies which funnel children into the prison pipeline often crippling them for life.
  • 09/19/14
    Child Watch® Column: "The High Moral and Economic Cost of Child Poverty in America"
    Just released U.S. Census Bureau data reveals 45.3 million people were poor in America in 2013. One in three of those who are poor is a child. Children remain our poorest age group and children of color and those under five are the poorest. More than one in five infants, toddlers, and preschoolers were poor during their years of greatest brain development and vulnerability.
  • 09/12/14
    Child Watch® Column: “Helping Children in Hidden Rural Poverty"
    When many people hear child poverty in America the first stereotype is an inner city child and discussions about solutions to poverty often focus on concentrated poverty in urban areas. But in a nation where over 16 million children, more than one in five, are poor, the plain truth is that child
  • 09/05/14
    Child Watch® Column: “The Invisible Achievement Gap: Students in Foster Care"
    Across the country it’s back to school time. I hope it is a year full of promise and not disappointment and added stress for all children—especially those most vulnerable. I also hope this school year begins with a renewed commitment by all teachers and school administrators to help every child succeed.
  • 08/29/14
    Child Watch® Column: “'The Emotional Toll of Growing Up Black in America"
    Dr. Terrell Strayhorn, a brilliant Black Ohio State University professor, recently opened the Educational Testing Service and Children’s Defense Fund co-sponsored symposium on Advancing Success for Black Men in College by sharing a question his 14-year-old son asked him: why did he get in trouble for speaking out of turn when he jumped in to answer his teacher’s question, but when his White friend did the same thing she was praised for being excited about learning?
  • 08/22/14
    Child Watch® Column: “'Who’s Looking for Me?': God’s and America’s Invisible Children"
    Not long ago Reverend Romal Tune was the child in “Who’s Looking for Me,” his spoken word piece shared below—the hungry boy begging strangers for money and watching them cross the street to avoid him; the teenager planning his funeral with his then 15-year-old cousin because “dying meant that we would finally be noticed; people would finally see us and treat us like we mattered.
  • 08/15/14
    Child Watch® Column: “Strong Programs, Strong Mentors, and Strong Mindsets”
    We know the commonly repeated claim that there are more Black men in prison than in college isn’t true—but in 2011 Black men accounted for fewer than 6 percent of undergraduate students and 4 percent of graduate students, though they made up 8.7 percent of 18-29 year olds.
  • 08/08/14
    Child Watch® Column: “Children in the Desert”
    For years the Mott Haven neighborhood of the Bronx in New York, home to St. Ann’s Episcopal Church, was the poorest section of the poorest Congressional district in the United States. I recently had another wonderful visit at the Children’s Defense Fund Freedom Schools® summer program hosted at St. Ann’s, whose incomparable rector is the Reverend Martha Overall—known to everyone as Mother Martha.
  • 08/01/14
    Child Watch® Column: “Kiwis in the Bronx”
    For years the Mott Haven neighborhood of the Bronx in New York, home to St. Ann’s Episcopal Church, was the poorest section of the poorest Congressional district in the United States. I recently had another wonderful visit at the Children’s Defense Fund Freedom Schools® summer program hosted at St. Ann’s, whose incomparable rector is the Reverend Martha Overall—known to everyone as Mother Martha.
  • 07/25/14
    Child Watch® Column: “A Mississippi Freedom Summer Pilgrimage: An Atrocity We Must Never Forget”
    We both took this journey on June 25 with a group of about 400 young people, including young women participating in the Children’s Defense Fund (CDF)’s summer leadership institute for young Black women from rural Alabama, Georgia, and Mississippi, part of CDF’s Southern Rural Black Women’s Institute for Economic and Social Justice.
  • 07/18/14
    Child Watch® Column: “Andrew Young’s Choice”
    “None of us had any real education in social change. I was a biology major and a preacher. And yet we found ourselves in positions where we had to change the world . . . and what you will find is that it is easy if you listen to that still, small voice within. That’s where you hear God.”
  • 07/11/14
    Child Watch® Column: “Overcoming Evil”
    Nelba Márquez-Greene is a licensed marriage and family therapist who has spent her life helping others. In December 2012 she was the coordinator of a youth and adolescent outpatient psychiatric clinic and a university instructor supervising six clinical interns. But nothing in her professional training could have prepared her for what she, her family, and community would experience after her beautiful six-year-old daughter Ana Grace and twenty-five other children and teachers were murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.
  • 07/03/14
    Child Watch® Column: “Breaking the Code of Silence”
    “I found my voice long before I became a writer in community organizing. That’s where I found my voice, where I was able to take all that pain and transform it into something useful in the world, and I never looked back.” Michael Patrick MacDonald is a storyteller.
  • 06/27/14
    Child Watch® Column: “We, the People”
    Those of us in Mississippi for the historic 1964 Freedom Summer anniversary know very well none of it could have unfolded in the way it did without the quiet and courageous leadership of Robert Moses and David Dennis.
  • 06/20/14
    Child Watch® Column: “Inspiring Lessons from Seattle Pacific University”
    Just days before graduation a young man with a history of mental illness entered a science and engineering building on the university’s campus armed with a shotgun and more than 50 rounds of ammunition and began firing.
  • 06/13/14
    Child Watch® Column: “Return of the Weasels”
    This column is not about the recent story making headlines in New York City on Mayor Bill de Blasio’s proposal to lift a ban on pet ferrets. But it is about weasels.
  • 06/06/14
    Child Watch® Column: “John Lewis to Young Leaders: Get In 'Necessary Trouble'”
    ot every speaker tells a crowd of young leaders that their job is to get into trouble. But that’s part of the message iconic civil rights warrior and now Congressman John Lewis (D-GA) conveyed at this year’s week-long Children’s Defense Fund (CDF) Freedom Schools®’ National Training that began June 1st for nearly 2,000 college age Freedom School servant leaders and site coordinators. They will mentor, teach, and lead Freedom School programs for over 12,500 pre-K through 12th grade students across the country this summer in faith congregations, public schools, college campuses, juvenile detention facilities, homeless shelters, and a range of other settings where the neediest children live.
  • 05/30/14
    Child Watch® Column: “Dr. Vincent Harding’s Call to Make America America”
    When my brother friend Dr. Vincent Harding passed away May 19 at age 82, we lost a beloved historian, theologian, social justice activist, and visionary who never lost sight of the “beloved community” his friend and colleague Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. believed our nation and world could become.
  • 05/23/14
    Child Watch® Column: “From Hardship to Hope”
    Foster care is intended to be a temporary solution during one of the darkest times of a child’s life, but the average length of stay is nearly two years, and every year more than 23,000 youths “age out” of foster care at age 18 or older without being connected to a forever family.
  • 05/16/14
    Child Watch® Column: “From Freedom Summer to Freedom Schools”
    As a brand new law school graduate in 1963 I was fortunate enough to receive one of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund (LDF)’s first two fellowships to help young attorneys seeking to practice in the South. After a year of intensive preparation at LDF’s New York City headquarters under the tutelage of an extraordinarily gifted and committed band of attorneys, I opened a law office in Jackson, Mississippi.
  • 05/09/14
    Child Watch® Column: “The Opportunity Gap”
    In the spring of 1954, like so many Black families, mine waited anxiously for the Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision. My father and I talked about it and what it would mean for my future and the future of millions of other Black children who were attending segregated but unequal Black schools.
  • 05/02/14
    Child Watch® Column: “The Budget Is Not Fair, Mr. Chair”
    On Wednesday, April 30, 2014, Marian Wright Edelman, president of the Children’s Defense Fund, testified before the House Budget Committee on the impact of the War on Poverty on children and how our nation can finish the job started by President Johnson and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. 50 years ago.
  • 04/25/14
    Child Watch® Column: “The Seed Experiment”
    A perennial favorite science project from preschool on up is the “seed experiment”: A child plants identical seeds in two pots. She places the first pot inside a dark cupboard and leaves it there, and she puts the second one in a sunny spot and waters it every day. She waits to see what will happen. It’s very easy for even the youngest children to figure out that their seedlings need the basics—sunlight and water—if they are going to survive and thrive. The same is true for children.
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