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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  • 08/19/16
    Child Watch® Column:
    Back to School
    As a new school year begins, parents, teachers and administrators are all thinking about how to make it the best year ever. One of the keys to student success sounds very simple but can make a profound difference: making sure every student is in school every day. This is not the case in many schools and school districts across the country. The Department of Education estimates that five to seven and a half million students miss 18 or more days of school each year, or nearly an entire month or more.
  • 08/12/16
    Child Watch® Column:
    Filling in the Stories
    Bryan Stevenson, the brilliant founder and Executive Director of the Equal Justice Initiative, believes it’s possible to change our nation and world despite the inequality and violence that sometimes threaten to overwhelm us. He’s thought long and hard about the steps needed and believes a key to changing America’s future is changing the narrative we tell ourselves about our shared past. This is especially true about our legacy of Native American genocide, slavery and Jim Crow, and the injustices throughout our history that linger and simmer under the surface then boil over again and again. He speaks often about the urgent need to confront our historic narrative including recently to young servant leaders preparing to teach children in Children’s Defense Fund Freedom Schools® programs across America.
  • 08/05/16
    Child Watch® Column:
    Changing Our Racial Narrative
    Bryan Stevenson, the brilliant founder and Executive Director of the Equal Justice Initiative, believes it’s possible to change our nation and world despite the inequality and violence that sometimes threaten to overwhelm us. He’s thought long and hard about the steps needed and believes a key to changing America’s future is changing the narrative we tell ourselves about our shared past. This is especially true about our legacy of Native American genocide, slavery and Jim Crow, and the injustices throughout our history that linger and simmer under the surface then boil over again and again. He speaks often about the urgent need to confront our historic narrative including recently to young servant leaders preparing to teach children in Children’s Defense Fund Freedom Schools® programs across America.
  • 07/29/16
    Child Watch® Column:
    How Much Do Black Child Lives Matter?
    Four little girls were changing into choir robes and chatting in a church restroom preparing for the Youth Sunday services at 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama on September 15, 1963. At 10:22 a.m. a bomb previously hidden under the church steps with its timer deliberately set to go off during Sunday morning services exploded. Three 14-year-olds, Addie Mae Collins, Carole Robertson and Cynthia Wesley, and 11-year-old Denise McNair were killed on that Sunday morning.
  • 07/22/16
    Child Watch® Column:
    Our Nation’s Unfinished Business
    [The summer] brought racial disorders to American cities, and with them shock, fear and bewilderment to the nation. The worst came during a two-week period in July, first in Newark and then in Detroit. Each set off a chain reaction in neighboring communities . . . What happened? Why did it happen? What can be done to prevent it from happening again?
  • 07/12/16
    Child Watch® Column:
    Don’t Make Our Most Vulnerable Children Wait Longer!
    In an important show of bipartisanship, Congress is on the cusp of an historic step to help many of the most vulnerable children in our nation who are abused and neglected and at risk of entering foster care and lingering in group care.
  • 07/08/16
    Child Watch® Column:
    Seed Sowing for a Beloved Nation and World Community
    The group of Atlanta interfaith leaders meeting that September 11th had a vision for their own version of a beloved community. Instead of being deterred by terror and hate they planted the seeds for what grew into the Interfaith Children’s Movement. Dr. Luther E. Smith, Jr., Professor Emeritus of Church and Community at Emory University’s Candler School of Theology and coordinator of the Pan-Methodist Campaign for Children in Poverty, has been a leader in the movement since the beginning.
  • 07/01/16
    Child Watch® Column:
    Time for "Good Trouble" Inside and Outside Congress
    Congressman John Lewis' call to action in the U.S. House of Representatives on June 22nd was the beginning of an extraordinary event in our nation's Capitol.
  • 06/24/16
    Child Watch® Column: "#LoveWillWin"
    Sunday, June 12, America woke up to news of the worst mass shooting in our gun-soaked history. A celebration of Latin Night at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando turned into a killing field fueled by intolerance, hate and weapons of war. Now is the time to remember those who stand up and stand together in love.
  • 06/16/16
    Child Watch® Column: "Inaction Cannot Be An Option"
    Inaction is not an option. In the wake of the worst mass shooting in American history we can and must do everything in our power to end this scourge of terror, hate and bullets that fly across our land killing and maiming and breaking hearts and traumatizing communities with ever increasing frequency.
  • 06/10/16
    Child Watch® Column: "The Crucial Need to Expand the Non-White Teacher Pipeline"
    The Children’s Defense Fund (CDF) has just completed a week of national training for nearly 2,000 college students and recent graduates preparing to teach in CDF Freedom Schools® summer literacy programs across the country. Most come from the communities they serve and are role models for the children they serve.
  • 06/03/16
    Child Watch® Column:
    Remembering, Reclaiming and Honoring Our Roots
    On the 40th anniversary of the publication of Alex Haley’s landmark book Roots: The Saga of an American Family, a new television adaptation is bringing renewed attention to the story that opened so many eyes to the harsh truth about American slavery and its aftermath – an aftermath that continues under new guises despite much progress.
  • 05/27/16
    Child Watch® Column:
    Original Child Bomb
    President Obama’s historic visit to Hiroshima this week offers an opportunity to take a clear-eyed look back to the first and only time nuclear weapons have been used in war. Germany had surrendered on May 8, 1945. Japan refused to surrender and continued to wage the Pacific War. President Harry S. Truman faced a decision on whether or not to drop the world’s first atomic bomb in Japan.
  • 05/20/16
    Child Watch® Column:
    Building Strong Children Today For a Strong Nation Tomorrow
    Pediatricians aren’t usually day-to-day policy makers but policy decisions affect the work they do every day as frontline caregivers for our nation’s children.
  • 05/13/16
    Child Watch® Column:
    Welcome to Everyone
    When Andrew Carnegie was a seventeen-year-old immigrant “working boy” in Allegheny City, Pennsylvania (now Pittsburgh’s North Side) in 1853, he wanted to be able to borrow books to improve himself – but in the era of predominantly private libraries he was stopped by an annual $2.00 library subscription fee.
  • 05/08/16
    Child Watch® Column:
    Mother’s Day Call to Action
    As mothers and grandmothers who have dedicated our lives to serving children, our own and others, we know firsthand how important a stable home, a positive emotional and learning environment and safe communities are for a child’s healthy development.
  • 05/06/16
    Child Watch® Column:
    Stories of Mother Love
    As we celebrate mothers and grandmothers, foster mothers, and all those who step in to parent children in need, let’s pledge to take responsibility not only for our own children and grandchildren but for all children or at least for one child who may not be our own.
  • 04/29/16
    Child Watch® Column:
    Hope Is Waiting for the U.S. Supreme Court
    The futures of Baldo and his family and millions of other immigrant families are on hold until the U.S. Supreme Court makes a decision in U.S. v. Texas expected in June. Texas and 25 other states filed a lawsuit in February 2015 to block President Obama’s November 2014 executive action to help keep immigrant families together. The Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) and expanded Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) initiatives would help parents and young adults remain in the U.S. temporarily to work, further their education, and support their families. Baldo’s story is documented in one of the 19 friend of the court briefs filed on behalf of more than 1,000 organizations and individuals supporting the President’s executive actions.
  • 04/22/16
    Child Watch® Column:
    Recognizing All of America’s S/Heroes
    Every day I wear a pair of medallions around my neck with portraits of two of my role models: Harriet Tubman and Sojourner Truth. As a child I read books about Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad. She and indomitable and eloquent slave woman Sojourner Truth represent countless thousands of anonymous slave women whose bodies and minds were abused and whose voices were muted by slavery, Jim Crow, segregation and confining gender roles throughout our nation’s history.
  • 04/15/16
    Child Watch® Column:
    End Child Summer Hunger Now!
    Hunger doesn’t take a summer vacation and poor children like Linda who rely on free and reduced price breakfast and lunch during the school year to keep the wolves of hunger at bay face a long summer of food deprivation. “It was hard without school during the summer, but being able to qualify for something like food stamps or having a food pantry near us, that helped a lot,” Linda says, but at the end of the month, “it was kind of like a hit-or-miss kind of situation.”
  • 04/08/16
    Child Watch® Column:
    Income Inequality: The Housing Struggle
    “I was in Newark and Harlem just this week. And I walked into the homes of welfare mothers. I saw them in conditions—no, not with wall-to-wall carpet, but wall-to-wall rats and roaches.
  • 04/01/16
    Child Watch® Column:
    The Time is Always Right to Do Right
    Black Voices, Politics, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., National Cathedral, Remaining Awake Through a Great Revolution, human rights, civil rights, poverty, war, slavery, genocide, voting rights, Vincent Harding, civil disobedience, war, non-violence, Vietnam War, Poor People’s Campaign, children, Washington, DC, hunger, homelessness, mass incarceration, criminal justice system, desegregation, voting rights act, racism, materialism, war, violence, Native American genocide, life, liberty, pursuit of happiness, greed, income, inequality
  • 03/25/16
    Child Watch® Column:
    The Moment We Have Waited For
    Rev. C.T. Vivian, legendary civil rights leader, believes young people today are inheriting the world at a unique crossroads in history and that “this is the moment we have waited for. When I say ‘we’ve’ waited for, I’m talking about humankind has waited for. I’m talking about all the great philosophers and thinkers have waited for this moment.
  • 03/18/16
    Child Watch® Column:
    Tick, Tock, Tick Tock: Flint’s Disposable Poor Children
    America’s political blame game continues while children continue to suffer life impairing harm. The nation was riveted this week as Michigan Governor Rick Snyder and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Chief Gina McCarthy were grilled over their shameful inaction on the Flint, Michigan water crisis by members of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
  • 03/11/16
    Child Watch® Column:
    America, I Am You
    America’s Cradle to Prison Pipeline™ is a toxic cocktail of poverty, illiteracy, racial disparities, violence and massive incarceration which sentences millions of children of color to social and economic death. Once young people have entered the prison pipeline, to many people they become invisible, just a statistic.
  • 03/04/16
    Child Watch® Column:
    America’s Back Door
    The Harvard Gazette has released a series of articles on inequality in America. They describe Harvard University scholars’ efforts across a range of disciplines to identify and understand this nation defining and dividing concern and possible solutions.
  • 02/26/16
    Child Watch® Column:
    The Third Reconstruction Era
    The Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African American History and Culture is in the final stages of construction on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., next to the Washington Monument and near the National Museum of American History. It will be a transformative and long-overdue landmark in the center of the nation’s capital.
  • 02/19/16
    Child Watch® Column:
    The Other Washington
    The Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African American History and Culture is in the final stages of construction on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., next to the Washington Monument and near the National Museum of American History. It will be a transformative and long-overdue landmark in the center of the nation’s capital.
  • 02/12/16
    Child Watch® Column:
    Winifred Green: An Unsung Warrior for Racial and Economic Justice
    Transforming movements towards social justice depend on the work of a core group of committed and persistent and not always frontline soldiers — women and men who seize the moment and choose to stand up for what is right. My beloved friend and longtime Children’s Defense Fund (CDF) board member Winifred Green, who died February 6, 2016, was one of those unsung heroines.
  • 02/05/16
    Child Watch® Column:
    Leading the March towards Criminal Justice
    Bryan Stevenson’s inspiring and best-selling book Just Mercy shares some of the fruits of his lifelong fight to push our nation closer to true justice. In January our nation took two more steps forward in the ongoing struggle to treat children like children and ensure a fairer justice system for all, especially for our poor and those of color.
  • 01/29/16
    Child Watch® Column:
    Hungry Children in Rich America
    Sarah is three years old. She and her six-year-old brother, Bryce, are inseparable except when it’s time for him to visit the summer food program that provides meals at a school near his Ohio home for children who otherwise would go hungry.
  • 01/22/16
    Child Watch® Column:
    A Single Spark
    Honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. should sharply remind us that the Civil Rights Movement should never just be chapters in history books. I was so proud of high school students from Seattle, Washington who learned how they could make a difference in the world around them.
  • 01/15/16
    Child Watch® Column:
    Keeping Children Healthy, In School, and Learning
    Brandon, a six year old in the Houston Independent School District, had two working parents until his father was laid off. Brandon lost his health insurance when his father lost his job. Brandon’s mother quickly scrambled to try to enroll her son who has asthma in new coverage, but met some obstacles and didn’t know where to turn. Then the school district, which had been working with the Children’s Defense Fund (CDF) and AASA (The School Superintendents Association), through a partnership supported by The Atlantic Philanthropies, stepped in and helped her find coverage for Brandon under the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). With his new health coverage, doctors discovered Brandon also had high blood pressure and prescribed medicine to control it. Now the school nurse monitors his blood pressure every day and Brandon is healthy and happy to be in school learning.
  • 01/08/16
    Child Watch® Column:
    Guns Lethalize Anger and Despair
    “Every single year, more than 30,000 Americans have their lives cut short by guns -- 30,000. Suicides. Domestic violence. Gang shootouts. Accidents. Hundreds of thousands of Americans have lost brothers and sisters, or buried their own children. Many have had to learn to live with a disability, or learned to live without the love of their life.”
  • 01/01/16
    Child Watch® Column:
    Whither America
    The start of this New Year finds America at an inflection point as wars and terrorism abroad are echoed in violence, suspicion, and fear at home. How will we meet the moment? Hundreds of organizations and individuals have signed on to the urgent message of the campaign We Are Better Than This: “We grieve the many lives that have been lost or painfully transformed in recent weeks through extreme acts of violence.
  • 12/23/15
    Child Watch® Column:
    A Christmas Prayer
    Three years after the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in Newtown, Connecticut where a lone 20-year-old gunman wielding an assault weapon snuffed out 26 child and teacher lives, our nation has done shamefully little to protect children instead of guns. This week more than ten thousand people attended over 100 Orange Walks in 43 states to stand up and deliver a rallying cry that we must and can end gun violence in America according to Moms Demand Action – a cry that must continue and get louder and louder until our tone deaf political leaders hear or are retired from office.
  • 12/18/15
    Child Watch® Column:
    Why Are Children Less Valuable Than Guns in America?
    It’s Time to Protect Children
    Three years after the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in Newtown, Connecticut where a lone 20-year-old gunman wielding an assault weapon snuffed out 26 child and teacher lives, our nation has done shamefully little to protect children instead of guns. This week more than ten thousand people attended over 100 Orange Walks in 43 states to stand up and deliver a rallying cry that we must and can end gun violence in America according to Moms Demand Action – a cry that must continue and get louder and louder until our tone deaf political leaders hear or are retired from office.
  • 12/11/15
    Child Watch® Column:
    The Education Inequality Struggle
    This has been a hard year for poor children and children of color in a gridlocked and cantankerous Congress. The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) replacing the No Child Left Behind Act was enacted after gutting a strong federal role in education policy designed to protect these children and jeopardizing their opportunity for a fair and adequate education to prepare them for work in our globalizing economy. Over the past 50 years under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act too many states violated their responsibility to serve their poor and non-White children equitably, did not comply with the law and misused huge amounts of the funds intended for poor children for other purposes. With the loss of federal accountability in the new Act, I hope we will not see the mistakes of the past repeated and poor children fall further behind.
  • 12/04/15
    Child Watch® Column:
    Who Put The NRA in Charge of Our National Security?
    With the echo of gunshots from the San Bernardino massacre ricocheting across the country, and another American community reeling with new broken hearts, it sounds like a reasonable plea for common sense legislation a responsible lawmaker might make today. This quote from Senator Robert Kennedy’s letter to a constituent was written just over a year before he would be assassinated by a gun on June 6, 1968 in Los Angeles. Since Robert Kennedy’s and Dr. Martin Luther King’s 1968 deaths more than 164,000 children have died from gun violence in America—three times more than all the American soldiers killed in action in the Vietnam War and every external conflict since.
  • 11/25/15
    Child Watch® Column:
    A Prayer of Thanksgiving to the God of all Children in America and the World
    O God of the children of Syria, Nigeria and Liberia, of Sudan, South Africa and South Carolina, Of Afghanistan, Pakistan, India and Myanmar — Dalits too — of Israel, Iran and Iraq Of the Congo, Central America, Charleston, and Cleveland, of Darfur and Detroit, of Libya, Yemen and Ukraine, Nepal and New Orleans, Help us to love and respect and protect and welcome them all.
  • 11/20/15
    Child Watch® Column:
    Ugly Truths It’s Way Past Time for America to Face
    On November 14, Georgetown University President John J. DeGioia announced the university will rename two buildings on campus named for two 19th century Georgetown University presidents: Thomas F. Mulledy, who in 1838 arranged the sale of 272 slaves from Jesuit owned Maryland plantations and used the profit to pay Georgetown’s construction debts, and William McSherry, who also sold other Jesuit owned slaves and was Mulledy’s adviser.
  • 11/13/15
    Child Watch® Column:
    Revising the Undemocratic ‘Map of Shame’
    Barbara Arnwine has long been sounding the alarm about twenty-first century efforts to turn back the clock on voting rights. She recently founded the Transformative Justice Coalition after serving for many years as Executive Director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and head of its Election Protection efforts, the nation’s largest non-partisan voter protection coalition. Under her leadership the Lawyers’ Committee created a “Map of Shame” highlighting states where new or pending legislation threatens to suppress the right to vote—which, as she says, remains under attack in 2015 by forces who still believe the right to vote should stay in the hands of a precious few.
  • 11/06/15
    Child Watch® Column:
    Helping Children Cope with Crisis
    Executive Director of the Connecticut Commission on Children, Elaine Zimmerman helps meet many child needs in her state including sharing advice to help children cope with terrible events.
  • 10/30/15
    Child Watch® Column:
    Adults Are the Problem
    Amidst the shameful dysfunctional legislative gridlock of the U.S. House of Representatives, it was a great joy this week to celebrate a time and a leader – former Minnesota Senator and Vice President Walter Mondale – when bipartisanship, common sense and a national moral commitment to children and families almost became the law of the land for young children.
  • 10/23/15
    Child Watch® Column:
    Recalling a Time When Congressional Bipartisanship Worked for Young Children
    Amidst the shameful dysfunctional legislative gridlock of the U.S. House of Representatives, it was a great joy this week to celebrate a time and a leader – former Minnesota Senator and Vice President Walter Mondale – when bipartisanship, common sense and a national moral commitment to children and families almost became the law of the land for young children.
  • 10/16/15
    Child Watch® Column:
    Teaching the Truth About America’s History: Only the Truth Can Make Us Free
    Were my African ancestors, who were stolen at gunpoint from their homes and families, dragged in chains into the dark and crowded cargo hulls of ships for the often-fatal Middle Passage, and brutalized, beaten, and forced into chattel slavery for generations, just like many of the other “immigrants” who came to America in order to “work”?
  • 10/09/15
    Child Watch® Column:
    Learning Through Loss to Beat the Odds
    When Elijah was born his mother, a young college student, was chronically ill with sickle cell anemia. “I don’t really have too many memories of her outside of her being sick . . . One time when I was little, I think we had driven by the hospital and I said something like, ‘Oh, look. It’s Mommy’s second home.’”
  • 10/02/15
    Child Watch® Column:
    Progress for Children's Health
    Recently released data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey show the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is working and helping get people health coverage. This is a welcome stark contrast to new census data showing children remain our poorest age group and the younger they are the poorer they are.
  • 09/25/15
    Child Watch® Column:
    The Piercing Cry of Child Poverty in Economically Rich but Spiritually Poor America
    Pope Francis speaks out faithfully and forcefully against poverty and has been called “the pope of the poor.” But on his first visit to the United States there was demoralizing news about poverty, especially child poverty, in our nation—the world’s largest economy.
  • 09/18/15
    Child Watch® Column:
    Young Black Males: Pushed Out and Pushed Away
    We need to stand up and fight against unjust systems that often push young people out of school and onto the path to prison. We also need to make sure we are doing all we can as individuals to show love and care and support to young people—especially Black and Hispanic—who already often feel pushed out and pushed away.
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