Marian Wright Edelman's Child Watch® Columns
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Child Watch® Column: "I Want to Make a Difference"
Doctors told Jaime Gonzalez’s parents that his birth defects were so severe he probably wouldn’t live to age one. When he did, doctors told them next that he’d probably never walk. He did that too—though it is still difficult even after a series of surgeries. “[My parents] both pushed me,” Jaime said. “When I was little and didn’t want to try, my mother said, ‘Don’t say you can’t. You can.’ That became my attitude, and even when it was hard—I’m in pain even now—it’s never been an option for me to quit.”
Child Watch® Column: "Gunshots"
“There’s something evil in our society that we as Americans have to work to try and eradicate…I would like you to put my trauma center out of business. I really would. I would like to not be an expert on gunshots. Let's get rid of this. This is not America.” – Dr. Janis Orlowski, MedStar Hospital, after treating gunshot victims of the Navy Yard massacre
Child Watch® Column: "Celebrating Forty Years for Children"
On September 30th friends and supporters of the Children’s Defense Fund (CDF) will gather at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. to celebrate CDF’s 40th anniversary and honor our best known alum, Hillary Rodham Clinton. She was a law student with CDF’s parent organization, the Washington Research Project, and joined CDF as a young staff attorney right out of law school.
Child Watch® Column: "Mentors Matter"
Mike Ruff had to make up his mind a while back that he was going to step up and become one of the leaders. That’s what he told participants at the recent symposium “Black Male Teens: Moving to Success in the High School Years,” sponsored by the Educational Testing Service and the Children’s Defense Fund. Mike explained how he came to embrace standing out from the crowd by defying low expectations—and how he reached a key turning point when a mentor told him he couldn’t succeed.
Child Watch® Column: "All Children Deserve Teachers Who Care About Them"
As children across the country are returning to their classrooms, Janol Vinson is part of the next generation of educators and administrators who will be shaping our children’s future. He recently received his bachelor’s degree in middle grades education from Northern Kentucky University and is now pursuing a master’s degree in higher education administration at Florida International University.
Child Watch® Column: "Where Do We Go From Here?"
As the nation celebrates the fiftieth anniversary of the March on Washington, many are discussing what Dr. King would say to the nation and world today and tell us to do. But his message to us today is as clear as it was fifty years ago if only we could hear, heed, and follow his warnings about what we need to do to make America America.
Child Watch® Column: "We Need a Change"
In mid-July, students at Children’s Defense Fund Freedom Schools® summer enrichment sites across the country participated in a National Day of Action. The Freedom Schools program seeks to empower children to know that they are not just citizens in waiting. We want them to grow up knowing that they can and must make a difference in their homes, schools, communities, nation, and world.
Child Watch® Column: "Invisible Children"
When he was 15 Darryl ran away from home and got arrested and sentenced to two months in juvenile detention centers. When he tried to go back to high school, school officials said without guidance and support he couldn’t come back. They suggested he get a G.E.D. Soon he was arrested again. The turning point for Darryl was getting involved as a community organizer, finding a mentor, and going through leadership training programs.
Child Watch® Column: "Teddy Bears, Toy Guns, and Real Guns"
Imagine your kindergartner is visiting a new friend’s house. During the hour they are running around together they’ll pick up and play with all three of the following things, but only two of them have been tested by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) for safety standards. Which one do you want to be sure has been regulated for safety?
Child Watch® Column: "We Must Do Better: Look at the Facts"
Have we been fighting the wrong wars to keep our children safe? Nearly five times more children and teens were killed by guns in 2010 than U.S. soldiers killed in action that year in Iraq and Afghanistan. America’s military and law enforcement agencies have four million guns. Our citizens have 310 million. And we have no idea how many of those guns were purchased without a background check. The gun lobby has been enriching gun manufacturers at the expense of our children’s safety for far too long.
Child Watch® Column: "Ready for School?"
Is your child ready to start school? For parents and children trying hard to enjoy at least a few weeks more of downtime before beginning back to school shopping and school year routines all over again, the answer is probably a resounding not yet! But even when September arrives, for millions of American children the answer will still be no. Right now, far too many of our youngest children aren’t prepared to start school ready to learn and succeed this year or any year. Although some may consider me a broken record, I’ll keep playing it until we hear, get it, and act. The greatest threat to America’s economic, military, and national security comes from no foreign enemy but from our failure to invest in healthy and educated children regardless of their lottery of birth.
Child Watch® Column: "Justice Denied"
The reaction to the not guilty verdict from George Zimmerman’s jury was swift and strong. Young people poured onto the streets in peaceful protests in Chicago, Los Angeles, New York City, and Washington, D.C. By 3 a.m. more than 100,000 people signed an online petition urging the Justice Department to pursue civil rights violation charges against George Zimmerman.
Child Watch® Column: "It Just Takes Everything We’re Not Doing Now"
“You don't have to be a Black male educator to teach Black students. You just have to love Black male children and believe that they have unlimited potential and opportunity, and they’re just as smart and capable as anyone else and caring. And it’s hard. Sometimes you have to go the extra mile,” said Michael Tubbs, an extraordinary young leader and teacher who is part of the Children’s Defense Fund youth leadership development movement. “It takes school, church, neighborhood, government, partnerships. It takes relevant curriculum. It takes love. It takes trial and error. It takes being creative. It takes messing up. It takes getting back up. It just takes everything we're not doing now.”
Child Watch® Column: "A Quiet American Epidemic"
Thirteen-year-old Michael Graham, an eighth grader at Henry H. Wells Middle School in Brewster, New York, was popular with his classmates and played football, basketball, and lacrosse. But this year on January 14th, Michael committed suicide using a pistol he had found in his home. Michael’s father had three unregistered handguns in the house: a .40 caliber, a 9mm, and a .44 Magnum.
Child Watch® Column: "We Can Do Better"
Guns killed more preschoolers in one year than they did law-enforcement officers in the line of duty. Ask yourself if this is really what we as Americans meant by putting our children first?