Leadership & Staff

MaryLee Allen

Director of Policy


MaryLee Allen is Director of Policy at the Children’s Defense Fund. She is responsible for overseeing CDF’s Policy Team, which includes the research staff, and developing and advancing CDF’s Policy Agenda consistent with CDF’s belief that children don’t come in pieces and action is needed on multiple fronts to ensure children get what they need and deserve. With CDF’s Policy Team, she uses data and effective program and policy approaches that work on the ground to help make the case for promoting positive federal administrative and legislative reforms for children. Ms. Allen and the Policy Team play both defense and offense in ending child poverty, ensuring every child comprehensive health and mental health coverage, giving every young child a quality early childhood experience, leveling the education playing field to promote equity for all, keeping children safely at home with their families and out of the child welfare and juvenile justice systems and ensuring that when placements are necessary children are in the least restrictive, most family-like setting appropriate to their special needs, and protecting children from guns.

Ms. Allen is a regular contributor to CDF’s signature reports, State of America’s Children and Portrait of Inequality, and in 2015 Ending Child Poverty Now, and has authored and co-authored many other reports and publications throughout her decades at CDF. She co-chairs the National Child Welfare and Mental Health Coalition and works closely with advocates and service providers across the country. She currently serves on the Board of Directors of Generations United and has served on many other boards, task forces and advisory committees. Earlier in 2017, she was the recipient of the inaugural Child Welfare Leadership Prize from the Juvenile Law Center in Philadelphia. Ms. Allen is a graduate of Marquette University and received her MSW from the National Catholic School of Social Service at Catholic University.