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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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  • 04/02/10
    Child Watch® Column: "The Dangerous Drift Back Towards Segregated Schools"
    Two recent decisions by school boards in North Carolina are local signs of a troubling national trend towards resegregation in public schools. In New Hanover County, which includes Wilmington, parents and advocates spent much of last year debating a new middle school redistricting plan that would focus on "neighborhood schools," essentially resegregating the schools by race and economic class because our neighborhoods look that way.
  • 03/26/10
    Child Watch® Column: "Haiti's Restavèk Children: The Child Servitude Crisis"
    The recent earthquake in Haiti gave the rest of the world a glimpse of a form of child suffering that often goes unseen. When a group of American missionaries were accused of child trafficking, many people were confused by the story that unfolded. How could parents have been desperate enough to agree to simply give their children away to strangers? Sadly, this wasn't just an isolated event that only happened because of the earthquake.
  • 03/19/10
    Child Watch® Column: "Fighting Childhood Obesity"
    When First Lady Michelle Obama decided to launch the "Let's Move" campaign to fight childhood obesity, she brought much needed attention to a crisis facing millions of children. It's a special concern for children of color because new research shows Black and Hispanic children are disproportionally at risk for nearly a dozen factors that increase their chances to be obese.
  • 03/12/10
    Child Watch® Column: "Juvenile Justice Reform: Making the “Missouri Model” an American Model"
    The state of Missouri has created a juvenile justice system that has proved so successful over the last thirty years it's known as the "Missouri Miracle." A number of practices combine to make Missouri's system unique: It's primarily made up of small facilities, generally designed for between ten and thirty youths, located at sites throughout the state that keep young people close to their own homes. These facilities don't look like jails with traditional cells; there are only eight isolation rooms in the entire state, which are seldom used and only for emergency situations. They feature a highly trained and educated staff working in teams with small groups of youths.
  • 03/05/10
    Child Watch® Column: "Children Need Better Protection from Abuse and Neglect"
    In January 2008, four sisters were found dead in their southeast Washington, D.C. home. The girls, ages 5, 6, 11, and 17, had been murdered by their mother, Banita Jacks, months earlier. She was recently convicted and sentenced to 120 years in prison. None of the District of Columbia's social service agencies or the police intervened to save the girls despite some alarming signs that they were in great peril.
  • 02/26/10
    Child Watch® Column: "Wrong Place, Wrong Time"
    When young Black men are the victims of violent injuries in their urban neighborhoods, what happens next? This question haunted Dr. John Rich, who was educated at Dartmouth, Duke, and Harvard, was a primary care doctor at Boston Medical Center, and was the founder of the city's Young Men's Health Clinic. In both settings he was in constant contact with young men who had been victims of violence, and of course he was deeply concerned about the physical scars he kept treating. But as a Black doctor dealing with the aftermath of violence in young Black men day after day, Dr. Rich felt a special connection with his patients and wanted to know about more than just the medical effects of the gunshot and knife wounds he was seeing.
  • 02/19/10
    Child Watch® Column: "Rosenwald Schools: Reclaiming a Legacy"
    Across the country, schoolchildren have been studying Black History Month. But many Americans know very little about a group of schools that educated hundreds of thousands of Black children and are their own key piece of Black history. From 1913 to 1932, nearly 5,000 "Rosenwald schools" were built in 15 states, mostly in rural Southern communities.
  • 02/12/10
    Child Watch® Column: "Leaving the Littlest Ones Behind"
    When people talk about the "achievement gap" at-risk children face, they often think of it in terms that apply to school-age children—but that gap can start much earlier than most people might guess. A recent report by the nonprofit, nonpartisan research group Child Trends showed that disparities actually begin appearing before children's first birthdays.
  • 02/05/10
    Child Watch® Column: "Remembering Howard Zinn"
    When Howard Zinn passed away on January 27 at age 87, the nation mourned the loss of a pioneering historian and social activist who revolutionized the way millions of Americans, especially young Americans, understand our shared history. His writings and work inspired millions of readers, but I was among the generations of students privileged to know him as a beloved teacher, mentor, and friend. His first academic job after graduate study at Columbia University was at the historically Black, all-women Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia, my alma mater.
  • 01/29/10
    Child Watch® Column: "SNCC, Fifty Years Later"
    Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday every January becomes an occasion for looking back at the legacy of the Civil Rights Movement. As the celebration of the King Holiday leads into February and Black History Month, it's a time to consider not only how far we've come but how far we still have to go, and to reflect on some of the milestones in movement history. This year, one of those national and personal milestones is the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC).
  • 01/22/10
    Child Watch® Column: "Children Drop Out and Into Lives of Poverty and Imprisonment"
    A homeless man talking about how he ended up on the streets said he had wanted to get in with the "cool" crowd in 8th or 9th grade—a crowd that smoked marijuana, got into fights, and skipped school. No adult reached out to help him turn his life around so he continued his decline into a life of chronic joblessness and poverty, and long stretches of incarceration after he dropped out of school.
  • 01/15/10
    Child Watch® Column: "Jasmine Lynn: No Hiding Place From Gun Violence"
    Nineteen-year-old Jasmine Lynn arrived at Atlanta's Spelman College, my alma mater, as a smart, dedicated student full of promise. She was a psychology major with a 3.8 grade point average who wanted to be a lawyer. Her friends knew her as "a beautiful, free spirited ball of energy [who] always had a smile on her face."
  • 01/08/10
    Child Watch® Column: "Six Reasons We Must Keep CHIP in Final National Health Reform Legislation"
    Most Americans do not know that the politically popular and successful Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP), signed by President Obama with much fanfare on February 4, 2009, will be repealed in the House bill in 2013. The Children's Defense Fund strongly supports the Senate bill's CHIP provisions.
  • 01/01/10
    Child Watch® Column: "Urban Food Deserts Threaten Children's Health"
    If any of us were forced to live in a desert we'd probably find trying to survive in a barren, desolate wasteland difficult. But through a series of public policies and private sector decisions, millions of mostly low-income and minority families in America have been condemned to subsist in vast urban "food deserts" that pose serious health threats to their children.
  • 12/24/09
    Child Watch® Column: "And a Little Child Shall Lead Them"
    I love to share a story shared with me about my dear friend and mentor Rev. William Sloane Coffin, Jr. It was Christmas Eve and the pews at New York City's Riverside Church were packed.
  • 12/18/09
    Child Watch® Column: "Powerful Special Interests Should Not Trump Children's Health Needs"
    A theologian friend shared the story of taking her car to a Jiffy Lube for servicing. Not having anything to read, she picked up a manual on the coffee table about boating. A chapter on the rules for what happens when boats encounter one another on the open sea described two kinds of craft: burdened and privileged. The craft with power that can accelerate and push its way through the waves, change direction, and stop on demand is the burdened one. The craft dependent on the forces of nature, wind, tide, and human effort to keep going is the privileged craft.
  • 12/11/09
    Child Watch® Column: "Beating the Odds in Tough Times"
    In these challenging economic times, when so many are struggling to keep their heads above water, life is toughest for children in broken families at the low end of the income scale. Yet despite struggling to live under the worst conditions, there are extraordinary young people who draw upon their inner strength to overcome the most daunting barriers.
  • 12/04/09
    Child Watch® Column: "Is There Still No Room in Our Inn for the Most Famous Poor Baby in History?"
    In this holy season of Advent, tens of millions of Christians are waiting for and preparing to celebrate the birthday of the most famous poor baby in history on Christmas Day. Yet that baby – born in a stable after being denied a room in the inn for his birth over 2,000 years ago – might still find "no room" signs in the health care inn in the richest nation on earth in 2009.
  • 11/20/09
    Child Watch® Column: "A Thanksgiving Prayer to End Poverty in Our Time"
    Thanksgiving is a time when many Americans pause to be grateful for all we have. In the current economic downturn when the gap between rich and poor is at the highest level since the Great Depression and the unemployment rate is 10.2 percent, millions of our neighbors, including many families with children, are struggling hard to count their blessings.
  • 11/13/09
    Child Watch® Column: "Amen! Rev. Dr. Ray Hammond and Ella"
    On November 4, 2009, about 4,000 babies in strollers, young children, parents, youths, teachers, child care providers, doctors, and grandparents rallied and strolled all around our U.S. Capitol. We told Congress that millions of children must not be left worse off after health reform and that the effective and cost effective Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) should be kept and improved rather than eliminated as the House health reform bill would do.
  • 11/06/09
    Child Watch® Column: "Adults! Stand Up and Help Prevent Millions of Children From Being Worse – Rather Than Better – Off After Health Reform"
    Health reform bills pending in the House and the Senate would make millions of children worse off after health reform than they are now. This must not happen. The House bill eliminates the successful Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) in 2013 and would move millions of children who had been in CHIP to a completely new, untested and far more expensive Health Insurance Exchange where parents will end up paying more for their children to receive fewer assured benefits.
  • 10/30/09
    Child Watch® Column: "What Are America's Real Values?"
    What is a child's life worth? What is a child's health worth? What is a child's spirit, battered by preventable suffering and chronic disease, worth? What are a child's hope and ability to learn worth? What are the true values of the world's richest nation that is so spiritually poor that it even debates whether it can afford to give all its children the basic right to health care?
  • 10/23/09
    Child Watch® Column: "Can Children Get Congress To Protect Their Health?"
    In 1931, Grace Abbott, the Chief of the U.S. Children's Bureau, gave a speech about her long and frustrating workdays in our nation's capital trying to advocate for children's needs. She said she felt all alone standing with her baby carriage on the sidewalk watching a great traffic jam moving toward the Capitol where Congress sits.
  • 10/16/09
    Child Watch® Column: "The Annual National Observance of Children's Sabbaths® Celebration"
    For many people of faith who care about children's needs, the third weekend of October is a special celebration. Each year, on this weekend, thousands of churches, synagogues, mosques and temples across the country hold special worship services, education programs and advocacy activities to engage people of faith in the lives of children and their families.
  • 10/09/09
    Child Watch® Column: "The Huge Economic Impact of the Achievement Gap"
    McKinsey & Company is one of the leading management consulting companies in the world so when they turn their attention to analyzing a problem, people listen. Recently, McKinsey's Social Sector Office has been studying a crisis affecting America's children that has enormous repercussions for our nation. In April, they released the report "The Economic Impact of the Achievement Gap in America's Schools," and in it they concluded our nation's persistent educational disparities are taking a huge economic toll.
  • 10/02/09
    Child Watch® Column: "Shooting Deaths of Children Rose for Second Straight Year"
    I'm deeply disturbed that after a decade of decline, the number of firearm deaths among children and youths has increased for the second year in a row. Our 2009 "Protect Children, Not Guns" report released in September reveals that almost nine children and teens die from gunfire every day—one child death every two hours and 45 minutes.
  • 09/25/09
    Child Watch® Column: "A Child's Race Against a Deadly Disease"
    Two-year-old Case Hogan is a bright, happy child with a sunshine smile who is in a desperate race against a degenerative disease that is causing the gradual deterioration of his body. A medical diagnosis revealed that Case has Hunters Syndrome, also known as MPS II.
  • 09/18/09
    Child Watch® Column: "Child Health as a Critical National Security Issue"
    In April 2005, a group of scholars at the George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services published a policy brief on "National Security and U.S. Child Health Policy: The Origins and Continuing Role of Medicaid and EPSDT."
  • 09/11/09
    Child Watch® Column: "Keeping Children Out of the Pipeline to Prison"
    Hundreds of thousands of our nation's children are being funneled down life paths that lead to arrest, conviction, incarceration and even death. The urgent challenge for each of us and for our nation is to prevent this waste of our children's lives and of our nation's capabilities and future.
  • 09/04/09
    Child Watch® Column: "Promising Models for Reforming Juvenile Justice Systems"
    Nationally, one in three Black boys and one in six Latino boys born in 2001 are at risk of going to prison during their lifetimes. Although boys are more than five times as likely to be incarcerated as girls, the number of girls in the juvenile justice system is significant and growing.
  • 08/28/09
    Child Watch® Column: "Katrina's Children— Still Struggling"
    Dear President Obama: My name is Jade Windon, 7th grade student at McDonogh 42 Charter School in New Orleans, Louisiana. Mr. President, I write to you expressing how many of our lives continue to be affected today by the storm that happened almost four years ago. Hurricane Katrina devastated the lives of everyone here and in the Gulf Coast region.
  • 08/21/09
    Child Watch® Column: "The Economic Costs of Uninsured Children"
    In June, Rice University's James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy released "The Economic Impact of Uninsured Children on America," a new report whose bottom line is that extending health insurance coverage to all children in the United States would be relatively inexpensive compared to the cost of letting children remain uninsured and would yield economic benefits that are greater than the costs.
  • 08/14/09
    Child Watch® Column: "Life and Death and Child Health Reform"
    As a child, Devante Johnson's future seemed to be full of promise. His mother, Tamika Scott, worked hard, managing to raise three boys while pursuing a career, buying a house and completing a college degree. But as we reported two years ago, her family's middle class security crumbled when her doctors told her she had Multiple Sclerosis and strongly urged her to leave her job because the stress of work would make her condition worse. With the dramatic loss of income and insurance, everything she was building began to slip away as she cashed in stocks and used money from her retirement fund to pay bills. Fifteen months later, her problems worsened. Her oldest son, Devante, then 10, was diagnosed with advanced kidney cancer.
  • 08/07/09
    Child Watch® Column: "We Must Support the Youth PROMISE Act"
    Over the last three decades, politicians from Capitol Hill to local city councils have generated law enforcement polices and practices based on the mantra that we have to "get tough on crime."
  • 07/31/09
    Child Watch® Column: "Unfair Children's Health Disparities: More Reason for Reform"
    In all of the recent debate over who deserves access to health care in our wealthy country, one often forgotten fact is that this is one more area where Black children and other children of color have always been left behind. Of the nine million uninsured children in America, minority children are uninsured and underinsured at far greater rates than White children.
  • 07/24/09
    Child Watch® Column: "Eleven-year-old Ronald's Troubling Predicament"
    Eleven-year-old Ronald has just finished the fourth grade at his New Orleans elementary school. During the school year he was enrolled in an after-school Children's Defense Fund (CDF) Freedom Schools® program, which seeks to help children fall in love with reading, increase their self-esteem, and develop more positive attitudes toward learning.
  • 07/17/09
    Child Watch® Column: "Children Demand Real Child Health Reform Legislation in Congress for All Children"
    As legislators on Capitol Hill make crucial decisions right now to reform America's broken health care system, thousands of children across the country raised their voices demanding health coverage for all children during the Children's Defense Fund (CDF) Freedom Schools® annual National Day of Social Action.
  • 07/10/09
    Child Watch® Column: "Let's Stop Playing the Lottery with Our Children's Health"
    As Congress drafts legislation to reform America's health care system, our Senators and Representatives must consider the impact of the unjust lottery of geography on children like Carlos Sanchez (not his real name). For five years, Carlos, 15, received pediatric care at the Upper Cardozo Health Center, one of the 39 sites that are a part of Unity Health Care, Inc.
  • 07/03/09
    Child Watch® Column: "Health Coverage: Making Too Little, Making Too Much?"
    The James family in Fort Worth, Texas, should be celebrating right now. After losing his last job due to the difficult economy, Jason James, who worked as a supervisor at a warehouse company, had been searching for new employment for months.
  • 06/26/09
    Child Watch® Column: "This Is Congress's Chance to Fix the Health Care System for All Children"
    On June 23, I testified before the House of Representatives Committee on Energy and Commerce, Subcommittee on Health, to comment on its comprehensive health reform discussion draft. I pressed the Subcommittee on the need for health care reforms that extend affordable and accessible coverage with comprehensive benefits to all children in every state and urged them to simplify enrollment and retention, particularly in Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP).
  • 06/19/09
    Child Watch® Column: "Insuring Taylor's Future"
    Leigh Bernard expects her seven-year-old twin daughters Taylor and Sydney to grow into productive, self-sufficient adults. That shouldn't be an unreasonable expectation as they're both bright, active children who are doing well at their school in Glen Allen near Richmond, Virginia.
  • 06/12/09
    Child Watch® Column: "Bridget's Battle"
    Desni and Bob Crock want their two-year-old daughter Bridget to have everything she needs to fight the rare cancer that's attacking her lung, but they find themselves fighting a second battle at the same time—a battle to survive financially because of soaring health care costs.
  • 06/05/09
    Child Watch® Column: "Santa Clara County Probation Program's Alternative to Warehousing Youths"
    At the Children's Defense Fund's Cradle to Prison Pipeline® Summit in Sacramento, California, we heard from young people from Missouri and California who are trying to get out of the pipeline with the help of caring adults.
  • 05/29/09
    Child Watch® Column: "Empowering the Next Generation Through the CDF Freedom Schools® Program"
    Close your eyes and think about the words summer school. What comes to mind? If you picture a room full of children clapping, chanting, laughing and learning to fall in love with books and reading, you could be imagining the experience thousands of children across the country are about to have over the next few months as they participate in the Children's Defense Fund Freedom Schools® program.
  • 05/22/09
    Child Watch® Column: "A Song for Anna"
    Bill La Croix began singing to his daughter Anna as soon as she was born. Picking his banjo, he sang to his little blue-eyed girl about the mountains outside their Victor, Montana, home. But Anna didn't hear her father's music. When she was about 14 months old, Bill and Anna's mother, Amy, discovered their child was deaf.
  • 05/15/09
    Child Watch® Column: "National Foster Care Month"
    May is National Foster Care Month and this year is a good time to reflect on the progress we can make in improving the lives of children and youths in foster care by implementing the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act (Fostering Connections Act).
  • 05/08/09
    Child Watch® Column: "Insurance CEOs Get Rich While Denying Health Coverage to Children"
    Katie Hebert, age 4, is a very sick little girl. She gets severe seizure-like attacks that can last 11 hours from an undiagnosed neuro-developmental disorder. She is deaf in one ear, has a feeding disorder and requires daily medication for asthma...
  • 05/01/09
    Child Watch® Column: "The National Day to Prevent Teen Pregnancy"
    After falling for many years, the teen pregnancy rate is again on the rise. According to a report released in March by the National Center for Health Statistics, the teen birth rate increased 5 percent between 2005 and 2007. And a 2007 Centers for Disease Control Youth Risk Behavior Survey reveals that the declines in teenage sexual activity and increases in teenage contraceptive use have come to a standstill.
  • 04/24/09
    Child Watch® Column: "Whatever It Takes"
    Whatever It Takes. That's the title of the recent book by New York Times Magazine editor Paul Tough about Geoffrey Canada, a vice chair of the Children's Defense Fund's board of directors and the visionary creator of the Harlem Children's Zone (HCZ). "Whatever it takes" is Canada's philosophy about serving and saving the thousands of children in the nearly 100-block radius that constitutes the Harlem Children's Zone Project.
  • 04/17/09
    Child Watch® Column: "National Child Abuse Prevention Month"
    April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month—a good time for us to look at the child abuse and neglect crisis in America. The statistics are shocking: A child is abused or neglected every 40 seconds. During 2007, an estimated 794,000 children were determined to be victims of child abuse or neglect, and almost 3.2 million children were subjects of abuse or neglect investigations.
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