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: "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."
Child Watch® Column: "Gun Violence and Children: Have We No Shame or Respect for Child Life?"
. The Children's Defense Fund (CDF) has documented the threat of gun violence against American children for nearly two decades since we learned in a Peter Hart Associates poll undertaken by CDF's Black Community Crusade for Children that the number one concern of Black adults and youths was gun violence. So many in both generations feared they or their children would never reach adulthood because of pervasive gun violence.
Child Watch® Column: "Katrina, Five Years Later"
Five years later, for many of Katrina's children and families home is still not back to the way it was. New roadblocks keep appearing on the road to recovery. The city's resilience is still strong, but challenges remain.
Child Watch® Column: "Children Need Emergency Help in this Deep Recession Now!"
Children have only one childhood and it is right now. Millions of children in our nation require emergency attention in our recession ravaged economy as poverty, including extreme child poverty, hunger, and homelessness have increased, if irreparable harm is not to be inflicted on them and on our nation's future.
Child Watch® Column: "Changing the Status Quo in Our Schools"
In late July, both President Obama and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan spoke to the National Urban League's Centennial Conference about what the President called "an issue that I believe will largely determine not only African American success, but the success of our nation in the 21st century -- and that is whether we are offering our children the very best education possible." Right now, of course, the answer is no so President Obama and Secretary Duncan were there to speak about the Administration's plans for education reform.
Child Watch® Column: "Education as Opportunity"
African Americans have always seen education as a key to life and freedom. In his autobiography Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave, Frederick Douglass taught us that to educate a man is to "forever unfit him to be a slave," but to deny a person education is to "[shut him or her] up in mental darkness." Douglass said that when his former master ordered his wife to stop teaching Douglass to read, he felt he was being treated "as though I were a brute."
Child Watch® Column: Listening to Shirley Sherrod
By now much of the nation has followed the story of former U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) official Shirley Sherrod, who was forced to resign from her post earlier this month after dishonestly being accused of racism in a March speech, only to be vindicated as soon as someone took the time to get a copy of what she actually said and allow the truth to come to light. But for those people who know Shirley and her husband, civil rights leader Charles Sherrod, the fact that the smears on her character were outrageous and false was never in doubt.
Child Watch® Column: "Abyssinian Development Corporation: Creating Community Change"
ADC's mission is to "increase the availability of quality housing to people of diverse incomes; enhance the delivery of social services, particularly to the homeless, elderly, families, and children; foster economic revitalization; enhance educational and developmental opportunities for youth; and build community capacity through civic engagement."
Child Watch® Column: The Importance of Healthy Communities for Boys of Color
A new report was released in June that sheds a sobering light on how many Black and Latino boys grow up in communities that are, in a number of ways, dangerous to their health. Called "Healthy Communities Matter: The Importance of Place to the Health of Boys of Color," the report contained contributions from scholars and researchers at the RAND Corporation, PolicyLink, the Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice at Harvard Law School, and the Center for Nonviolence and Social Justice and the Department of Emergency Medicine at Drexel University. It was funded by the California Endowment. Some of its data and best practices focus on California but the lessons learned apply to communities across the country.
Child Watch® Column: CDF Freedom Schools® National Days of Social Action
Service is a key part of the CDF Freedom Schools experience, and every year sites across the country participate in coordinated National Days of Social Action. This year's National Days of Social Action are focused on ensuring every child a Healthy Start in life and access to affordable, seamless, and comprehensive health and mental health coverage.
Child Watch® Column: The Oil Spill's Impact
Katrina changed and damaged lives and livelihoods all around the Gulf region, many forever, including many of the same communities that are now dealing with the aftermath of the oil spill. This new crisis is leaving numerous families in these already vulnerable and fragile communities even more hopeless.
Child Watch® Column: Honoring Our Legacies
Thousands of people who never had the privilege of meeting Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in person visit Atlanta every year to walk along Auburn Avenue, step inside the Heritage Sanctuary at Ebenezer Baptist Church, and tour the house at 501 Auburn where Dr. King was born. When they do, for a little while they have the chance to feel as if they were walking in Dr. King's footsteps.
Child Watch® Column: Expanding the Child Health Safety Net
The landmark health reform legislation – The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010 - signed by President Obama in March guarantees access to health coverage for 32 million people in America, including more than 95% of all children.
Child Watch® Column: The Living Skills Fifth Grade Semester: A Vision for Fighting Child Obesity
My remarkable friend Szekely is now focusing on a new target audience: our nation's children. She is adding her extraordinary mind, energy, and voice to the chorus of those concerned about America's child obesity problem. Together with Dr. David Kessler, former FDA Commissioner and now Professor of Pediatrics and Epidemiology and Biostatistics at the School of Medicine, University of California, San Francisco, she is promoting a pilot program they hope will help educate schoolchildren on the importance of healthy lifestyles.
Child Watch® Column: University of Notre Dame Valedictorian Katie Washington: A Terrific Role Model
As colleges and universities across the country celebrated their students' accomplishments this commencement season, the news about the top student at the University of Notre Dame was especially inspiring for me. Twenty-one-year-old Katie Washington from Gary, Indiana made history as Notre Dame's first Black valedictorian. Katie was a biological sciences major with a minor in Catholic social teaching who earned a perfect 4.0 grade point average.
Child Watch® Column: More Threats to School Diversity
The new health reform law also established a number of important prevention initiatives, including the Early Childhood Home Visiting Program. Early childhood home visiting programs provide voluntary, in-home services to families with young children beginning prenatally and going up to kindergarten entry age.
Child Watch® Column: "Dr. Elliott “Dad” Mason, Sr.: A Great Prayer Warrior"
Dr. Mason preached his first sermon at age 16—the same year he entered Dillard University, where he was honored three years in a row as the top student in religion and philosophy. He received a second bachelor's degree in divinity from the Oberlin Graduate School of Theology, where he also ranked first in his class.
Child Watch® Column: "The Playground Jail"
Adults often start conversations with children by asking them what they want to be when they grow up. We tell them to dream big, and encourage them by giving them pretend doctor's kits, fancy dress-up clothes, and other toys that let them imitate adult life.
Child Watch® Column: "Dr. Dorothy Height—Extraordinary Leader, Lantern, and Role Model"
The brilliant Dr. Height was a lantern and role model for millions of women and a long haul social change agent blessed with uncommon commitment and talent. Her fingerprints are quietly embedded in many of the transforming events of the last seven decades as Blacks, women, and children pushed open and walked through previously closed doors of opportunity.
Child Watch® Column: "A Call for Education Equity"
Title I was created "to ensure all children a fair and equal opportunity to obtain a high-quality education." However, the formula for distributing Title I funds is stacked against the very children it was most intended to help.