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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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  • 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.
  • 04/18/14
    Child Watch® Column: “Making Strides for Preschool”
    We know high-quality early childhood development and learning interventions can buffer the negative effects of poverty and provide a foundation for future success with lifelong benefits, particularly for the poorest and most vulnerable children. Studies have shown children enrolled in high-quality early childhood programs are more likely to graduate from high school, hold a job, and make more money and are less likely to commit a crime than their peers who do not participate.
  • 04/11/14
    Child Watch® Column: “Improving the Odds for America’s Children”
    More than 40 years ago the earliest planning for what would become the Children’s Defense Fund (CDF) took place at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. CDF began in 1973 in a Harvard University owned clapboard house. Our beginning was bolstered by a two-volume publication of the Harvard Educational Review in 1973 and 1974 among whose top editors were CDF staff, many of them graduates of or students at Harvard’s education and law schools.
  • 04/04/14
    Child Watch® Column: “Mama, Get Me Away From Around Here!”
    Almost one year after I first wrote about Ka’nard Allen, his story—and the stories of several other children whose lives are connected to his—remain a searing example of how pervasive gun violence in our nation’s cities is killing, injuring, and traumatizing our children. As Pulitzer Prize-winning New Orleans journalist Julia Cass reports for the Children’s Defense Fund, on May 29, 2012, Ka’nard celebrated his 10th birthday at his grandmother’s house in the Central City neighborhood of New Orleans.
  • 03/28/14
    Child Watch® Column: "Ella Baker: My Civil Rights Generation’s 'Fundi'"
    During this last week of Women’s History Month I wanted you to learn about Ella Baker, a transforming but too little known woman and overpowering justice warrior for my generation of civil rights activists.
  • 03/21/14
    Child Watch® Column: "The Invisible Backbone Leaders of Transforming Social Change"
    Women’s History Month is a reminder that in every major American social reform movement, women have always played a critical role. Women at the forefront, acting as the catalyst for progress when it needs to happen, make the front pages and the history books.
  • 03/14/14
    Child Watch® Column: "Make Hard Work Pay — Again"
    One of our country’s most cherished values is the idea that if you work hard you can get ahead, be part of the middle class, raise a family comfortably, and ensure your children will do better than you did. But this is a hollow promise to countless families today. The sad truth is you can work full time in America and not be able to meet your family’s basic needs.
  • 03/07/14
    Child Watch® Column: "Struggling to Change What You’re Given"
    Seventeen-year-old Theresa Tran is one of this year’s winners of the Children’s Defense Fund-Ohio’s Beat the Odds® scholarships after overcoming tough odds including physical disability, the death of a beloved sibling, and a father who suddenly abandoned the family and left her mother to raise four children alone.
  • 02/28/14
    Child Watch® Column: "Honoring Septima Clark"
    During this Black History Month I was deeply honored to be inducted into the South Carolina Hall of Fame at the same time as Mrs. Septima Clark—the woman Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. called the “Mother of the Movement.”
  • 02/21/14
    Child Watch® Column: "Killed by a Gun"
    The headlines in the case were sadly familiar. An angry adult armed with a gun used it to shoot and kill an unarmed Black teenager he thought seemed “bad”—this time, because the teenager and his friends were sitting in a car listening to music the grownup didn’t like. In this outrageous Florida case a middle-aged White man, Michael Dunn, was convicted of three counts of attempted murder and one count of shooting a gun into an occupied car.
  • 02/14/14
    Child Watch® Column: "The Hungry Child "
    Some children cheer when schools close for winter storms, but there are hungry children in America right now for whom another snow day this week meant another day without access to school breakfast or lunch. Despite criticism some big city mayors have kept schools open on snowy days this winter so their children would not go without food. These same children suffer over the weekends. While some schools have food pantries and send children home on the weekends with backpacks filled with food, it is still far, far from enough and only a drop in the bucket of need. Schools report students who arrive hungry on Monday morning or cry when they miss the bus or it’s late because that means they’ve missed breakfast.
  • 02/07/14
    Child Watch® Column: "Celebrating, Continuing and Building on CHIP’s Success"
    We’re used to making a big fuss over children’s birthdays, but this week child advocates and families across the country are celebrating CHIP, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, on the fifth anniversary of its reauthorization.
  • 01/31/14
    Child Watch® Column: "A Continuing Portrait of Inequality: The Black Child in Today’s America"
    Carter G. Woodson, son of former slaves, pioneering Harvard-trained historian, founder of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, and inspirer of Black History Month, sought to teach future generations of Black children about the great thinkers and role models who came before us. He was very clear that celebrating our rich Black history of struggle and courage was not the same as getting stuck in the past, but if we are going to understand the present and protect the future we must understand where we came from and what it took to get us here.
  • 01/23/14
    Child Watch® Column: "It’s Time to End Child Poverty in Rich America with Urgency and Persistence"
    Fifty years after President Lyndon Johnson declared a War on Poverty, the United States is still not a fair playing field for millions of children afflicted by preventable poverty, hunger, homelessness, sickness, poor education and violence in the world’s richest economy with a gross domestic product (GDP) of $15.7 trillion.
  • 01/17/14
    Child Watch® Column: "Steps Forward on School Discipline"
    In many American schools the holiday celebrating Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday is used as an opportunity to teach children about his life and legacy. But in too many of those same schools, Black and other nonwhite and poor children’s extraordinary talents are still being wasted today. Nearly three-quarters of Black and Latino fourth and eighth grade public school students cannot read or compute at grade level. Long after legal segregation has ended Black students are still most likely to be excluded from the classroom: Black students made up only 18 percent of students in public schools in 2009-2010 but were 40 percent of students who received one or more out-of-school suspensions. A Black public school student is suspended every four seconds. When Black students are so often left behind and pushed out it should not surprise us that Black students are more than twice as likely to drop out of school as White students; each school day 763 Black high school students drop out.
  • 01/10/14
    Child Watch® Column: "Treat Children as Children"
    Children are not little adults. Adolescents are not the same as adults. We’ve known this for years. The research showing that their brains are still developing is clear. Although young people act on impulse, they have the ability to positively change and have a productive future.
  • 01/03/14
    Child Watch® Column: "A Concrete Way to Remember and Honor Nelson Mandela"
    All across the world people joined together to mourn former South African president and freedom fighter Nelson Mandela. There was a deep shared sense of loss at the passing of one of the rare human beings who truly helped change the world.
  • 12/27/13
    Child Watch® Column: "Extend Emergency Unemployment Insurance Benefits Now!"
    In the last few days of this year, most Americans are wrapping up their holiday celebrations and pondering the promise of 2014. But millions of Americans who have been struggling the longest to find work in our slowly recovering economy are now facing deep uncertainty and despair instead of a Happy New Year. The budget deal Congress finally reached in December did not extend emergency unemployment insurance benefits for the long-term unemployed and 1.3 million struggling jobseekers are losing those desperately needed survival benefits on December 28. Unless Congress acts immediately in the new year to extend these benefits, huge numbers of struggling jobseekers will be affected: the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities estimates almost five million jobless workers will lose benefits over the next twelve months. The President’s Council of Economic Advisors estimates that if Congress lets emergency unemployment insurance expire, it will cost the economy 240,000 jobs and impact families with 3.6 million children by the end of 2014.
  • 12/20/13
    Child Watch® Column: "A Christmas Prayer: O God of All Children"
    As millions of Christians around the world prepare to celebrate Christmas and their belief that God entered human history as a poor tiny baby, let us remember all the poor babies and children who struggle to live and realize their God given potential in our own rich land and all around the world today. And commit to act to assure hope and justice for them all.
  • 12/13/13
    Child Watch® Column: "One Year Later"
    In the year since six-year-old Ben Wheeler was murdered by a gun in his classroom at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut along with nineteen other first graders and six teachers, more than 30,000 other Americans have been killed by a gun—30,000 more families now drowning in the same grief.
  • 12/06/13
    Child Watch® Column: "Sounding the Siren for Children"
    This second decade of the 21st century is a crucial one for the children in America and for the nation’s future. When the Children’s Defense Fund began 40 years ago I never would have dreamed that in 2013 our work would be so unfinished and would be so hard. Although we have come far we are at a precarious moment when so many important gains have been partly eroded by a global recession, long term economic challenges, and the lack of investments in our children.
  • 11/27/13
    Child Watch® Column: "Preventable Hunger in Our Land of Plenty"
    While many American families gather around the Thanksgiving table this week, some of us combining this year’s traditional dinners with Hanukkah feasts, a too quiet group will be left out of the national celebration. The nearly 49 million Americans—including nearly 16 million children—living in food insecure households will be struggling to afford the food they need. These families won’t be choosing between apple or pumpkin pie this holiday season but will face choices about paying for groceries or rent, heat, electricity, medicine or clothing for their children as they do each month—choices no family should have to make in our nation with the largest Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in the world.
  • 11/22/13
    Child Watch® Column: "Ask What You Can Do For Your Country"
    “It should be clear by now that a nation can be no stronger abroad than she is at home. Only an America which practices what it preaches about equal rights and social justice will be respected by those whose choice affects our future. Only an America which has fully educated its citizens is fully capable of tackling the complex problems and perceiving the hidden dangers of the world in which we live.” These are words from President John F. Kennedy’s “Unspoken Speech” he was on his way to deliver at the Dallas Citizens Council’s annual meeting when he was assassinated in his motorcade on November 22, 1963.
  • 11/15/13
    Child Watch® Column: "Will We Act to Save All Our Children and Our Nation’s Future? We Can!"
    The introduction this week of the Strong Start for America’s Children Act by Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Representatives George Miller (D-CA) and Richard Hanna (R-NY) is a hugely important and long overdue step forward towards leveling the playing field for children, especially poor and low income children. Investing in them in their early years to be ready for school will provide a foundation for future success with lifelong benefits for them and economic and social benefits for our entire nation. Its enactment would demonstrate our commitment as a nation to doing what we know works for all of our children as research shows that poor children can perform as well as nonpoor children if we provide them the supports to do so.
  • 11/08/13
    Child Watch® Column: "We Need Immigration Reform Now!"
    Nine-year-old Jaime Gordillo Villa was born in the United States and is a good student who has gotten awards for both good grades and behavior. He wants to be a lawyer when he grows up to help immigrants and others who need help. He says he doesn’t want people to suffer for things they didn’t do.
  • 11/01/13
    Child Watch® Column: "Davion Navar Henry Only"
    Davion decided to take his future into his own hands and asked his caseworker if she could help him speak at a church. She made arrangements at St. Mark Missionary Baptist Church in St. Petersburg, Florida. There, as the article reported, the shy teenager who’s worked hard to get A’s so far this year in everything but geometry and would love to play football if he had someone to drive him to practice, stood at the pulpit and asked the congregation if “someone, anyone” could adopt him.
  • 10/25/13
    Child Watch® Column: "It’s Not Rocket Science"
    In the 1960s, when my grandfather was teaching me to drive in his little red Ford Falcon, there was an epidemic of deaths on the highways in the United States, and young people were dying in very large numbers.” That’s how Dr. Mark L. Rosenberg, president and CEO of The Task Force for Global Health, and former Assistant Surgeon General and former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, recently began talking about today’s public health crisis for young people.
  • 10/18/13
    Child Watch® Column: "Getting it Right, Right from the Start"
    In 2011, Dr. Jerry Weast retired after serving for twelve years as Superintendent of the Montgomery County Public Schools, a district just outside Washington, D.C. that was the largest and most diverse school system in Maryland and the 16th largest district in the nation. During Dr. Weast’s time as Superintendent the county underwent a large demographic change, with growing numbers of students of color and students living in poverty.
  • 10/11/13
    Child Watch® Column: "Stop the Shutdown, Prevent Economic Meltdown"
    Since the government was forced to shut down on October 1st one of the most common refrains has been that some members of Congress are acting like children—or, more accurately, worse than most children. Even five-year-olds understand that quitting the game and taking the ball home because the other team won’t give you your way is wrong. Extremist Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives continue to hold funding for the federal government hostage for the second week in a row, opposing a clean extension of government funding without conditions. Their actions as they refuse to do their constitutionally mandated duty are harming the economy and countless real children and families across the country.
  • 10/04/13
    Child Watch® Column: "The Closest Thing We Have to a Panacea"
    This week there is some good news from Washington, D.C. in the midst of all the dismal Congressional news on the shutdown. Like many American cities, the nation’s capital faces deep challenges, including some neighborhoods where poverty, violence, and unemployment rates are rampant.
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