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: "Bounced Checks From America's Bank of Opportunity"
As our nation pauses to honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. with the dedication of a new memorial on the anniversary of the historic 1963 March on Washington, most will focus on only part of the story. When many Americans think of the historic March, they think of Dr. King standing on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial delivering his inspiring "I Have a Dream" words he spontaneously added at the very end of his speech.
Child Watch® Column: "Getting Children Ready For School"
From new backpacks to sharp pencils, parents across the country are doing their best to cross the items off their children's back-to-school checklists. They want to be sure that when the first day of school comes, their children will have everything they need to be ready to start and ready to learn. But as a country we're failing to do the same thing and in the current budget debate, some of our leaders are threatening to do just the opposite.
Child Watch® Column: "A National Family Portrait"
In the Children's Defense Fund (CDF)'s new report on The State of America's Children 2011, we give a comprehensive overview on the well-being of America's children. But just who are America's children and families today? Children make up almost one in four of the people living in the United States today. More than one-quarter of our nation's children are young—infants, toddlers, or preschoolers.
Child Watch® Column: "Lessons Learned From the Ark"
As we take stock of the current state of America's children and the desperate need to change direction for the future, some ancient wisdom can give us a blueprint for setting sail and getting our children to safe harbor. Everything our nation and all of us need to know about life can be learned from Noah's Ark according to an anonymous writer.
Child Watch® Column: "The State of America's Children"
The Children's Defense Fund has just released a new report, The State of America's Children 2011, which paints a disturbing portrait of child needs across our country. With rampant unemployment, housing foreclosures, homelessness, hunger, and massive looming federal and state budget cuts, children's well-being is in great jeopardy. One in five children is poor and children are our nation's poorest age group.
Child Watch® Column: "The Promise of Freedom Schools"
In many school districts across the country summer vacation is getting into full swing. But for a lucky group of nearly 10,000 children in 87 cities and 27 states around the country, it's not just summer—it's a Children's Defense Fund (CDF) Freedom Schools® summer.
Child Watch® Column: "The Pledge"
Over this long holiday weekend, children will be gathering in towns and cities around the country ooh-ing and aah-ing over fireworks, marching in parades, proud of their heritage and proudly waving the American flag. Most of them still believe in the promise of America—a promise reflected in so many of the values and ideals that underlie the founding documents of our nation and the Pledge of Allegiance so many of us learned as children and repeated each morning in school.
Child Watch® Column: "Giving Black Boys a Strong Start"
When Shawn Dove was in sixth grade, the students at his New York City school were asked to decide which academic track they wanted to follow for the next two years. He decided to choose "major gym," just like the rest of his friends. But when he brought the form home to his single mother and said "Hey, Mom—can you sign this for me?," his mother said, "No—you're not going to major in gym! There's no future in gym. You're taking science and math."
Child Watch® Column: "Maternal Depression: Helping Mothers, Helping Children"
Ellie Zuehlke and her husband had expected the birth of their long-awaited first child to be one of the happiest moments of their lives—until, somehow, it wasn't. Instead, Ellie experienced severe postpartum depression that left her unable to care for their newborn son. To thousands of mothers, Ellie Zuehlke's story will sound sadly familiar.
Child Watch® Column: "One Woman's Freedom Movement"
The Rev. Dr. Anna Pauline "Pauli" Murray spent a lifetime challenging not only racial segregation, but systems of discrimination in all of their forms. Many students of American and African American literature and history know her as the author of acclaimed books like her fine memoir Proud Shoes—which told the extraordinary story of her childhood in her grandparents' North Carolina home and their family legacy of free Blacks, slaves, and slave owners—and her prizewinning poetry collection Dark Testament.
Child Watch® Column: "Remembering Dr. Benjamin E. Mays's Legacy"
Dr. Benjamin Elijah Mays, who was born in 1894 to former slaves, was an adviser to Presidents, mentor of mentors like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., lauded preacher and scholar, advocate for social justice, and the president of Morehouse College from 1940 to 1967.
Child Watch® Column: "Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge"
On May 25th, the Obama Administration announced a new Race to the Top challenge fund to identify and reward best practices in education—$500 million of the $700 million challenge is designed to improve the odds for the very youngest children. The Early Learning Challenge grant competition invites states to create comprehensive plans to develop and transform early learning systems for children from birth through prekindergarten to enable all children to start school ready to learn.
Child Watch® Column: "Fighting Cuts to Child Care"
New York City parent Yvonne works as a home care attendant to help support her three-year-old son Darnell. While Yvonne is working, Darnell is enrolled at Franklin Square Head Start, part of Union Settlement in East Harlem, where he receives quality child care and is thriving. Earlier this year Yvonne received a letter saying Darnell would be dropped from the program on September 2, 2011. Yvonne can't afford a private preschool and she can't leave Darnell home alone. Without other affordable options, when September comes Yvonne will have nowhere for Darnell to go while she works.
Child Watch® Column: "Voting Rights Under Attack"
At the signing of the historic Voting Rights Act on August 6, 1965 striking down the discriminatory practices many states had put in place to prohibit Blacks from exercising their right to vote, President Lyndon B. Johnson said, "Today is a triumph for freedom as huge as any victory that has ever been won on any battlefield."
Child Watch® Column: "Freedom Riders - A Living Legacy"
"Boarding that Greyhound bus to travel through the heart of the Deep South, I felt good. I felt happy. I felt liberated. I was like a soldier in a nonviolent army. I was ready." Today, Congressman John Lewis is serving his twelfth term representing Georgia in the U.S. House of Representatives. But in May 1961 he was a twenty-one-year-old student leader from American Baptist College in Nashville who volunteered to join the interracial group traveling through the South by bus to test the recent Supreme Court decision banning segregation in interstate travel.
Child Watch® Column: "Judge Patricia Martin: Family Matters"
The Honorable Patricia Martin, who serves as the Presiding Judge of the Child Protection Division of the Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois, is the president-elect of the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges. In this key role she is devoted to helping change children's lives. She previously chaired the Supreme Court of Illinois Judicial Conference Study Committee on Juvenile Justice, and spent a decade as an assistant Cook County Public Defender.
Child Watch® Column: "Children's Health on the Chopping Block"
Like many parents, California mother Anne-Marie Skinner knows "accidents happen." Her active, athletic teenagers Constance and Lucas are both involved in a number of extracurricular activities, and both have unfortunately suffered sports-related injuries that required serious medical care.
Child Watch® Column: "Dr. David French: Pioneering Physician"
"This was a man who lived a life of urgency, but never an urgency in the service of self, but rather in the service of the society, of mankind, of others." So said Howard French at a memorial service for his father, Dr. David French who passed away March 31 at age 86. I was blessed to have him, his wife Carolyn, and their children as friends over many decades.
Child Watch® Column: "From Head Start to Harvard"
The colors were brighter than any she had seen before. Shapes, letters, and lots and lots of colors adorned the walls; around the room, children worked together building high rises with colored blocks and "read" colorful picture books. "I had never seen so much color," Angelica Salazar recalls of her first days as a Head Start preschooler in Duarte, Calif. She remembers the discovery of library books and spending hours curled up on the reading rug.
Child Watch® Column: "Celebrating and Protecting Health Reform for Children"
A year ago President Obama signed into law the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (the "Affordable Care Act"), guaranteeing access to health coverage for 32 million uninsured people in America including 95 percent of all children. Racial minorities are disproportionately uninsured today and the Affordable Care Act will have a particularly positive impact in communities of color if allowed to go forward.
Child Watch® Column: "Revisiting Marks, Mississippi"
During her research for the Children's Defense Fund's recent report "Held Captive": Child Poverty in America, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Julia Cass visited the Mississippi Delta, New Orleans and Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and suburban Long Island, New York to profile three different kinds of child poverty. Her trip to Quitman County, Mississippi covered sadly familiar ground: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. visited the Black sharecropping community in Marks, the seat of Quitman County, in the summer of 1966 to preach at the funeral of a friend, and Marks was later chosen as the starting point of the mule train that left Mississippi for Washington, D.C. during the Poor People's Campaign.
Child Watch® Column: "Poor Children: Stranded at Sea"
As Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Julia Cass prepared the recent Children's Defense Fund's report "Held Captive": Child Poverty in America, she traveled to the Mississippi Delta, the ravaged cities of New Orleans and Baton Rouge in Louisiana, and the birthplace of the suburban American dream in Long Island, New York to see several different sides of contemporary American child poverty. Despite the different circumstances children in these diverse communities faced, Cass found that there was something very familiar about the effects of child poverty everywhere she looked.
Child Watch® Column: "“The New Jim Crow”"
"Jarvious Cotton cannot vote. Like his father, grandfather, great-grandfather, and great-great-grandfather, he has been denied the right to participate in our electoral democracy . . . Cotton's great-great-grandfather could not vote as a slave. His great-grandfather was beaten to death by the Ku Klux Klan for attempting to vote. His grandfather was prevented from voting by Klan intimidation. His father was barred from voting by poll taxes and literacy tests. Today, Jarvious Cotton cannot vote because he, like many black men in the United States, has been labeled a felon and is currently on parole."
Child Watch® Column: "Deamonte Driver's Continuing Legacy"
Four years ago this February, an entire community was devastated in Prince George's County, Maryland, just outside Washington, D.C., when 12-year-old seventh grader Deamonte Driver died after complications from a tooth abscess. His mother Alyce, who worked at low-paying jobs, had searched for a dentist to treat Deamonte's toothache who would accept Medicaid, but she was unsuccessful.
Child Watch® Column: "A Call to Black Families"
The distinguished theologian Howard Thurman once described an oak tree in his childhood yard with leaves that each autumn turned yellow and died but stayed on the branches all winter. Nothing—neither wind, storm, sleet, nor snow—dislodged these dead leaves from the apparently lifeless branches. Dr. Thurman came to understand that the business of the oak tree during the long winter was to hold on to the dead leaves before turning them loose in spring so that new buds—the growing edge—could begin to unfold.
Child Watch® Column: "Lighting a Successful Spark"
"On your mark, get set, ready, go!" In the language of childhood, these words are an exciting invitation—and a signal that it's time to be at the starting line and prepared to take off in order to sprint to success. But what happens when children aren't ready for the most important race of their lives? Every year, four million children in America enter kindergarten, but as many as one in three won't be ready for school—and many of them will never catch up.
Child Watch® Column: "Young People Falling Behind Economically"
While there is a lot of talk today about jobs, there has been far too little attention paid to the job prospects of young people. A new report prepared for the Children's Defense Fund shows young people have lost more ground economically than any other age group over the last three decades. Dr. Andrew Sum, professor and director of the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University, and his colleagues paint a grim economic picture for the futures of young workers and young families, and Black young people and young families fare the worst.
Child Watch® Column: "Renewing the Promise of the Child Health Insurance Program"
February 4th marks the second anniversary of the Child Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act (CHIPRA), which has already helped many states make significant improvements in health coverage for children. Today, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is issuing a report highlighting many of the gains made in enrolling eligible, but uninsured children in health coverage. During fiscal year 2010, children's enrollment in Medicaid and CHIP increased by more than two million!
Child Watch® Column: "“Held Captive:” Child Poverty in America"
My father told me I could do and be anything I wanted to be if I dreamed and worked hard enough for it. I took these words to heart, despite growing up in the Jim Crow era in Marlboro County, South Carolina. Today, too many children in Marlboro County and throughout America are not being taught to dream and to work hard for a better future. Unemployment in my home county has hovered between 16 and 20 percent for long periods of time and many children there have never seen anyone in their family able to find a job and go to work.
Child Watch® Column: "Remembering Sargent Shriver"
Sarge Shriver is rightly championed for serving as the founding director of the Peace Corps and working with the Special Olympics which his wife and partner, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, founded. But as the head of the Office of Economic Opportunity (OEO) and the "general" of President Johnson's War on Poverty, Sarge Shriver made a profound difference and had a lasting impact on the lives of millions of poor people in the United States, including the millions of children served by Head Start.
Child Watch® Column: "The Black Community Crusade for Children"
As our country remembers the dream of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., new research conducted for the Children's Defense Fund has found the vast majority of America's Black community, seven in 10 adults, view these as "tough or very bad times" for Black children and many see poor Black youths falling further behind. When 40 percent of Black children are born poor, 85 percent of Black children cannot read or do math at grade level in fourth grade and later almost half drop out of school, and a Black boy born in 2001 has a one in three chance of going to prison sometime in his lifetime, we know we are facing a crisis
Child Watch® Column: "Health Reform Under Threat"
In 2010, there was finally good news for millions of uninsured children and families when the President and Congress took a major step towards ensuring affordable and comprehensive health coverage for millions of children and families in America. With the passage of The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (the Affordable Care Act), more than 35 million Americans including more than 95 percent of children will have access to the critical health coverage they need to survive and thrive.
Child Watch® Column: "Celebrating Kwanzaa, Celebrating Community"
The New Year is marked with many kinds of celebrations, but for Black families and communities who celebrate Kwanzaa from December 26-January 1, every New Year's Day marks a renewed dedication to community. Kwanzaa is a unique celebration because it is not a religious or a national holiday but a cultural one, and it doesn't celebrate a person or an event but a set of ideas.
Child Watch® Column: "Two Christmas Eve Lessons"
In the story shared with me about my dear friend Bill Coffin, it was Christmas Eve and the pews at New York City's Riverside Church were packed. The Christmas pageant was underway and had come to the point at which the innkeeper was to turn away Mary and Joseph with the resounding line, "There's no room at the inn!"
Child Watch® Column: "Give the Gift of Caring and Sharing This Season"
The average American family spends hundreds of dollars on gifts during this season. It's wonderful to share special times and gifts with friends and family, but for many adults this holy season has been commercialized and become defined by shopping for the "in" toys, clothes, and other material gifts we think our children want. And while it's fine to give children these things when we can, we should never forget to give them the more important gifts of ourselves—our time, attention, and family rituals—that children need.
Child Watch® Column: "Twenty Years of Beating the Odds"
How does a child endure unspeakable hardship and still manage to succeed? What does it mean to save rather than give up on a child? When you read the stories of the Children's Defense Fund (CDF)'s Beat the Odds® award recipients, you'll find the answers. Too often we hear about teens getting into trouble, dropping out of school, getting involved with drugs, crime, and gangs, or becoming parents too soon.
Child Watch® Column: "A Thanksgiving Day Prayer to End Poverty in All Its Forms in Our Rich Land"
In this Thanksgiving week of 2010, when 15.5 million children are living in poverty – many hungry and homeless; when the gap between rich and poor is the highest ever; when the very richest Americans have reaped a huge tax windfall from the Bush tax cuts and some political leaders want to give them more; and when, incredibly, some political leaders are playing politics with the very survival of our children and earth in our nuclear saturated world by blocking immediate passage of the START treaty to control nuclear weapons, I hope we will pray for an end to child poverty in all of its forms.
Child Watch® Column: "Hunger in a Season of Plenty"
"It's dinner time in America. But for 1 in 4 children, you'd never know it." The ad with the simple image of an empty plate is meant to catch your eye—especially if you came across it in the November issue of a favorite magazine, tucked among the tips for a traditional Thanksgiving feast.
Child Watch® Column: "The Threat of Persistent Poverty"
Recent reports state that more Americans are now living in poverty in the suburbs than in cities—a trend that has increased dramatically during the recession. At the same time, there has been an increase in the number of families who once donated to food pantries or other organizations serving the poor who now need to turn to these same places for help themselves.
Child Watch® Column: "Stop the Bullying!"
The problem of bullying in our nation's schools has been in the headlines again, in large part because of a heartbreaking series of recent tragedies: children and youths who took their lives after they were bullied or harassed because their peers believed they were gay. We need to immediately send a clear message to all our children that bullying and harassment for this or any other reason is simply not acceptable.
Child Watch® Column: "Reverend Solomon Jackson, Jr.: Blessed to Be a Blessing"
Many faith communities around the country have just held their annual National Observance of Children's Sabbaths® celebrations, an event coordinated every October by the Children's Defense Fund. It encourages congregations of all faiths to consider how they can respond to the Divine mandate to nurture, protect, and ensure justice for all children.
Child Watch® Column: "Children Can't Vote But You Can – And Must"
But any voter who isn't enthusiastic about the ability to place a vote and have a say in these midterm elections for local, state, and national leaders is shirking their responsibility and wasting a huge opportunity others have struggled and died for. Those of us who participated in and lived through the Civil Rights Movement know firsthand that the right to vote is something Black Americans were fighting and dying for not very long ago.
Child Watch® Column: "Celebrating the Children's Sabbath"
Across the country, thousands of people of faith are coming together right now to advocate for children in need through National Observance of Children's Sabbaths® celebrations. This annual celebration, held every third weekend in October, provides a time for faith communities to strengthen their existing efforts for children, discover new opportunities, and respond to the Divine mandate to nurture, protect, and advocate for all children.
Child Watch® Column: "Seizing an Opportunity in Education Reform"
As America's children headed back to school in September, President Obama delivered a televised back-to-school address to the nation's students from the Julia R. Masterman School in Philadelphia, an acclaimed public magnet school for fifth through twelfth graders. He spoke about the importance of hard work—a lesson his own mother was quick to drill into him as soon as she sensed his effort level in high school was starting to hit a slump.
Child Watch® Column: "Remembering Varnette Honeywood"
Artist Varnette Honeywood had a clear vision of how she perceived Black people and families and a gift for sharing her joyful, colorful perspective with the rest of the world. She was a dear friend to the Children's Defense Fund and the illustrator and creator of our beautiful logo for the Black Community Crusade for Children's Leave No Child Behind® movement. Her death in September at age 59 was a sad loss for all of us.
Child Watch® Column: "Getting All Children the Schools They Deserve"
As a new academic year starts, children around the country are going back to school and settling into new classes. Meanwhile, parents, educators, policy experts, and politicians are gearing up again to monitor and measure student learning—and preparing to ask the hard questions about whether or not the children in their care are getting the best possible education.
Child Watch® Column: "Jefferson Thomas and the Courage of Children"
"[Jefferson] Thomas was just a teenager when he became one of the first African-American students to enroll in Little Rock Central High School. Yet even at such a young age, he had the courage to risk his own safety, to defy a governor and a mob, and to walk proudly into that school even though it would have been far easier to give up and turn back. And through this simple act of pursuing an equal education, he and his fellow members of the Little Rock Nine helped open the doors of opportunity for their generation and for those that followed."