Child Defender Fellowship2019-06-03T09:27:52-05:00

Child Defender Fellowship

Child Defender Fellowship


The Child Defender Fellowship is an opportunity for people of all ages and backgrounds to make a positive impact on children and take concrete steps to dismantle the Cradle-to-Prison Pipeline©. We invite people from all sectors and at any stage in life to become a Child Defender and gain critical knowledge of policy, learn about the history and tactics of nonviolent organizing and practice using these tools in your community. The learning format of the Fellowship is interactive and web-based. Each year, we create a virtual Fellowship community underpinned by servant leadership and passion to drive change for children on the ground.

Core Values of the Fellowship

Policy Advancement

Child Defender Fellows will understand and be able to articulate about policies that affect children at the national, state and local level.

Movement Building

Child Defender Fellows will be well-versed in the concepts and skills associated with being an effective and efficient movement builder.

Servant Leadership

Child Defender Fellows will be able to achieve their goals by transforming themselves and their community’s ability to lead.

Join us: become a Child Defender Fellow

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Learn with a Dynamic Group of Fellows

Our fellows come from all different walks of life. You’ll have the opportunity to interact with and work alongside a diverse group of people who want to step up for children. Check out some of our current fellows’ stories:

Meghana founded Just For Kidz, an organization seeking equity for children across the United States and internationally. She joined the fellowship to become a more effective team leader.

Mina is an education organizer in Miami. She currently organizes parents to advocate for their children. She joined the fellowship to strengthen herself and share her knowledge with her community.

Aramis is working on the U.S.-Mexico border as a law clerk to ensure families can stay together. He joined the fellowship to become a more effective organizer for immigrants seeking refuge.

Kristen is an organizer with Leadership for Educational Equity. She joined the fellowship because of her passion for nonviolent organizing and the opportunity to learn from gifted organizers and advocates.

Learn from Leaders in the Field

Each year we have diverse group of leaders from around the world share their expertise in subjects including leadership development, nonviolent organizing and policy analysis.

Dr. Max Klau is the Chief Program Officer at New Politics Leadership Academy and the author of Race and Social Change: A Quest, A Study, A Call to Action. Dr. Klau walked our fellows through developing their Servant Leadership Mission Statement.

Natalie Collier

Natalie Collier is the Founder and Director of The Lighthouse|Black Girl Projects where she uplifts the social, emotional and political needs of Black women and girls. Natalie coached fellows on building relationships and harnessing passion.

Jamila Raqib is an international nonviolence expert and the Executive Director of the Albert Einstein Institution. Jamila presented the basics of strategic nonviolence to the fellows and coached them on their campaign plans.

Michael Nagler is an international leader in nonviolence and movement building. Michael has was critical in introducing the concept of constructive program to the fellows.

Dylan Sellers is an organizer with the Campus Vote Project and a product of CDF Freedom Schools® and CDF’s organizing work. He shared his experiences as an organizer with our fellows and stressed the importance of relationships and follow-through.

Liz King is the Director of Education Policy for the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. Liz walked the fellows through all the facets of federal advocacy including the makeup of the federal government and it’s agencies.

Dr. Timothy Tyson is a best-selling author and a movement-builder with the New Poor People’s Campaign. Tim talked to the fellows about the importance of state and local advocacy and how to build momentum in their communities.

May Losloso is a senior organizer with Children’s Defense Fund-Minnesota. May taught the fellows how state laws affect the lives of children and the importance of teaching local communities how their government works.

Stephanie Van Hook is the Executive Director of the Metta Center for Nonviolence and the host of Nonviolence Radio. Stephanie talked with fellows about the importance of constructive programs throughout a nonviolent campaign.

Michelle Castillo is a youth organizer with Children’s Defense Fund-Texas. Michelle shared with the fellows the importance of centering youth voices and allowing them to lead our movements.

Ren Flanders is a young organizer and product of CDF Freedom Schools® and CDF’s organizing work. Ren spoke with fellows about her personal experiences organizing for children and how to bring communities together around a singular cause.

Dr. Barbara Peterson is a professor at Granite State College. She founded Nonviolent Citizen Action and educates individuals and organizations about strategy and coalition-building in people-powered movements.

Grow Your Ability to be a #ChildDefender

All that is required of a Child Defender Fellow is a passion to improve the odds for all children in America. Join our team and become an agent for the change you wish to see in your community. Sign up now to receive early access to the 2019-2020 Fellowship application.

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Child Defender Fellowship graduates have gone on to work in their communities and change the world for children. We hope you’ll join them.


Learn More about the Fellowship



You’ll have the opportunity to communicate directly with the facilitator, guest speakers and other fellows live in session. We value dialogue and the experiences of fellows!


We have fellows from all walks of life and want to hear your thoughts and experiences on every topic.


We seek clear, measurable outcomes for every session to ensure that you are achieving the growth you need to be an effective Child Defender.


We keep a strict time limit of one hour for every session to make the best use of fellows’ time. However, we offer an extended Q&A period after each session for those who want to go more in-depth with facilitators and guest speakers.


Our Fellowship is distilled into six themes to guide you on your way to becoming a Child Defender. Each theme is tied to specific goals for learning key concepts and skills.

Theme 1

The Foundation

Unpack the history of nonviolent action, explore policy issues that impact children’s well-being, understand the risk to children of color posed by the Cradle-to-Prison Pipeline© and learn how to engage leaders at the local, state and federal levels.

Theme 2

Being an Effective Grassroots Advocate

Identify issues in your community related to children and experience the power and limits of civic engagement. Learn to connect local system reforms to national movements in civil rights and social justice.

Theme 3

Obstruction, Construction and Transformation

Learn how to set strategic goals for organizing efforts and compare and contrast constructive programming with community services.

Theme 4

Building an Action Team

Establish a process for building a motivated and reliable team to help maximize your impact on children’s lives in your community and leverage your influence toward national policy and political campaigns.

Theme 5

Raising Awareness

Connect with local families who are impacted by harmful policies and learn to amplify their voices around your community and across the nation.

Theme 6

Maintaining Your Organization

Learn how to keep the momentum going as you defend the right of every child to have a safe passage into adulthood.


Our webinars are designed to be interactive and a great environment for learning. We promote interaction to build relationship with other fellows in these sessions.

Frequently Asked Questions

The Children’s Defense Fund Leave No Child Behind® mission is to ensure every child a Healthy Start, a Head Start, a Fair Start, a Safe Start and a Moral Start in life and successful passage to adulthood with the help of caring families and communities. For more than 45 years, CDF has provided a strong, effective and independent voice for all the children of America who cannot vote, lobby or speak for themselves.
The Children’s Defense Fund works to achieve a level playing field for all children. We champion policies and programs that lift children out of poverty; protect them from abuse and neglect; and ensure their access to health care, quality education and a fair shot in life. We pay particular attention to the needs of poor children, children of color and those with disabilities.
Across approximately 15 sessions covering six core themes, fellows will gain knowledge through an interactive web-video platform and be asked to put that knowledge to use. These sessions will generally take place every other week and run for approximately 1 hour, with an optional 30 minute after-session Q&A. Each session will end with an assignment for the fellows to take action in their communities and report back to the other fellows in the next session.
The Child Defender Fellowship is an opportunity for people of all ages and backgrounds to make a positive impact on children and take concrete steps to dismantle the Cradle-to-Prison Pipeline©. Fellows can expect to gain critical knowledge on policy and legislation, learn about the history and tactics of nonviolent organizing, and practice using these tools and tactics in your community including promoting local awareness, showing the local impact of policy, direct engagement with legislators, constructive programming and building a team, among others.
Seven months. The Fellowship will run from October 2019 through April 2020.
No. We believe this information should be available to anyone who wants to step up for children regardless of means. All we ask is that you commit to the process.
There is an opportunity for applicants to express why they are signing up for Fellowship on the application. Fellows that indicate misalignment with the Children’s Defense Fund’s mission or an unwillingness to understand nonviolent action as a tool for positive change will not be invited to join the Fellowship.

Fellows will gain…

  • knowledge on key issues that impact children on the local, state and national level
  • best practices in nonviolent organizing that can make you a more effective advocate for change in the community
  • experience independently implementing nonviolent actions in your own community
  • a network of young leaders across the nation that are passionate about social justice
  • a partnership with a prestigious organization that is nationally recognized for leadership in child advocacy
Generally, no. Some students have used the Fellowship to buttress their Ph.D. efforts. It would be best to talk with an advisor to see if you can get credits from your school.
No previous community engagement or organizing experience is necessary. Neither is any completed coursework in political science, law, justice studies, etc. a factor for acceptance.
No. While there is a focus on training the next generation of nonviolent organizers, we recognized that there are people willing to commit to making a difference in all stages of life, including youth under the age of 18. All ages are welcome to apply.
Students of every discipline are welcome to apply, as there is a need for every form of skill, interest and expertise on the road to change.
In addition to a passion for service, a willingness to learn and the ability to commit to the program, Fellows will need access to the internet and a video chat-capable device. The learning environment will be web-based and will create a virtual community for action throughout the year.
We ask that interested students complete the interest form no later than September 22, 2019. Applicants applying after that deadline may be considered on a rolling basis until October 4.

Contact Joseph Worthy at for more information. Learn more about the Children’s Defense Fund at

Sign up today!

To receive updates about the 2019-2020 Fellowship, fill out the interest form below. Filling out the interest form now will grant you access to the Fellowship application before the general public. You will also receive invitations to information sessions throughout the year where you’ll have the opportunity to get your questions answered about the Fellowship.

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