The Children’s Defense Fund – New York Calls for a ‘Whole Child, Whole Community’ State Budget & Legislative Priorities’

In Celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day,
The Children’s Defense Fund – New York
Calls for a ‘Whole Child, Whole Community’ State Budget & Legislative Priorities’ Centering Marginalized Children, Young People, & their Families & Communities


 January 15th, 2023


Kercena A. Dozier | Children’s Defense Fund – New York State Director

New York, N.Y. – Today, as a part of its celebration of the life and world-changing legacy of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., renowned civil rights activist and one of the greatest nonviolent leaders in world history, the Children’s Defense Fund – New York (CDF-NY) releases its Fiscal Year 2024- 2025 Legislative and Budget Agenda, titled Prioritizing the Whole Child, Whole Community’s Needs: New York State Budget and Legislative Priorities FY2024-2025. CDF-NY calls on Governor Hochul and State Legislators to advance a just, equitable Fiscal Year 2025 budget that is community-informed and which prioritizes marginalized children, you ang people, and their families and communities across New York State in ways that enable the state to take sizable, material action towards achieving its Child Poverty Reduction Act goal of reducing child poverty by 50%.

In doing so, CDF-NY remains guided by Dr. King’s words: “Oh America, how often have you taken necessities from the masses to give luxuries to the classes. … You can work within the framework of democracy to bring about a better distribution of wealth. You can use your powerful economic resources to wipe poverty from the face of the earth. God never intended for one group of people to live in superfluous inordinate wealth, while others live in abject deadening poverty.”

During a time where our democracy is teetering and under significant threat from racist, oppressive forces and ideas, the counter forces and ideas that we must use to save our democracy are justice, equity, and inclusion.

New York has among the highest structural racism and income inequality indexes in the United States. Furthermore, nearly 800,000 children in New York live in poverty, meaning that one in five Black and Latinx children are more than twice as likely as white children to live in poverty. Additionally, the median household net worth for white New Yorker’s is $276,900. This is 1400% greater than the median household net worth of Black New Yorkers at $18,870. New York’s pervasive racial and ethnic disparities harm our children, young people and their families and communities as well as our State and must be urgently addressed through meaningful, holistic systemic change and bold investment.

The Fiscal Year 2024-2025 Budget is Governor Hochul’s and the New York State Legislature’s opportunity to introduce and pass a budget that plays a significant role in saving our democracy by prioritizing and centering the needs of marginalized children, young people, and their families and communities.

“Coretta Scott King truthfully declared: ‘I must remind you that starving a child is violence. Suppressing a culture is violence. Neglecting school children is violence. Punishing a mother and her family is violence. Discrimination against a working man is violence. Ghetto housing is violence. Ignoring medical need is violence. Contempt for poverty is violence.’ To save our democracy will require justice victories against oppressive violence at the state and local level. Those injustices so powerfully named by Coretta Scott King are dominant throughout New York State, as some of our cities have the worst child poverty rates among bigger U.S. cities. To save our democracy and stop the violence, CDF-NY calls on Governor Hochul and the State Legislature to introduce and pass a Whole Child, Whole Community budget, which is a budget that holistically meets the full needs of all marginalized children, youth, young adults, and families in their respective communities and which makes great strides towards economic stability and the abolition of poverty.” Kercena A. Dozier, Executive Director of the Children’s Defense Fund – New York.

CDF-NY is the New York office of the Children’s Defense Fund (CDF), the only national, multi-issue advocacy organization working at the intersection of child well-being and racial justice. CDF envisions a nation where marginalized children flourish, leaders prioritize their well-being, and communities wield the power to ensure they thrive, and strives to advance the well-being of America’s most diverse generation – the 74 million children and youth under the age of 18 and 30 million young adults under the age of 25. CDF’s grassroots movements in marginalized communities build power for child-centered public policy, informed by racial equity and the lived experience of children and youth.

“Young people are powerful, and there is no more sacred trust than the good and just treatment of our children and those who love them. For decades, the Children’s Defense Fund – NY has given legislators and inhabitants of our great city a blueprint for this sacred trust — a bold, new vision where children, youth and families flourish in all the places where they now struggle. At Riverside Church in the City of New York, we have the audacity to believe, with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. ‘that peoples everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education, and culture for their minds, and dignity, equality, and freedom for their spirits.’ Additionally, we have the creative imagination to envision a world where voting rights, economic mobility, racial justice, youth justice, and health justice are the birthright for all God’s children. We are grateful for the moral courage and clarity that our partners at CDF-NY exhibit and emboldened by their leadership. New York leads the world in so many arenas. It is long overdue that we pass a child first budget, a budget that puts the needs of young people, their families and communities front and center. We all know that the seeds we plant today produce the harvest we reap tomorrow. It is our fervent prayer that CDF-NY’s vision will shape New York’s present and future harvest on behalf of the children entrusted to our care.” Reverend Adriene Thorne, Senior Minister at Riverside Church in the City of New York.

“Tragically, my community of Buffalo ranks number 7 nationally at 39.8% for childhood poverty rate. Children and young people in Buffalo need to be centered and prioritized in the New York State budget and legislative process, in order to ensure there is sufficient investment in the various issues that are causing them great harm and in order that they have everything they need to not just survive but thrive. CDF-NY has provided a holistic approach to addressing these issues with its Whole Child, Whole Community budget and legislative platform. Our Governor and state legislature must have the moral political courage to adopt and pass these measures for our children and young people. By doing so, they show through their actions that our marginalized children, young people, and their families and communities matter.” Rev. Paul J. Thomas, Pastor of Bethel AME Church-Buffalo, NY.

“From Harlem to Buffalo to Rochester to Syracuse, children, young people, and their families and communities throughout New York State are struggling with issues of hunger, housing insecurity, mental illness, childhood lead poisoning, gun violence and inadequate and unequal education. New York must use its state budget and legislative process to end these injustices and inequities for our most vulnerable and precious resource, our children, and young people. CDF-NY’s Whole Child, Whole Community budget and legislative vision is how the Governor and state legislature can make great strides towards freedom, justice, equality, and equity on behalf of NY’s marginalized children, young people, and their families and communities. Not only can they do so, but they must also do so. Our children and young people can’t wait!” Rev. Michael A. Walrond, Jr., Senior Pastor of FCBC in Harlem, NY.

“Almost daily, our conversations about the education of our children continues to be about the segregation in the education of minority youth and the educational opportunities that they are not afforded. The evidence shows up in the dreadful test scores in reading and math annually. In our afterschool program, most students are not reading on grade level, cannot complete math assignments, and are discouraged and embarrassed because they cannot achieve success academically.  We have embedded social and emotional learning into our programs to boost confidence and help students use their critical thinking skills.  CDF supports these educational initiatives, and it is imperative that we work to dismantle the systemic and racial disparities in education.” Olivia Kassoum-Amadou, Executive Director of Cameron Community Ministries in Rochester, NY.

“New York State owes a debt to CDF-NY for years of consciousness-raising and intercessory politics on behalf of children made invisible in airtight pockets of divestment. The 2024 budget and legislative priorities breathes oxygen into the abolition of poverty and economic exploitation. All families deserve a sturdy economic floor as a basic right. That’s the unfulfilled promise of America continuing to condemn children of every race in our state. By expanding access to health care, putting money back in the pockets of guardians, and defunding an economy of punishment, New York will be the safest, most prosperous, and holiest state in a country so tragically divided and unequal. The world is crying out for a New York too committed to equity to spend any more resources criminalizing children, denying families of dignity, and profiting on healthcare apartheid. It is heritage for state governments to spend exorbitant sums of money on death and destruction, grossly forsaking public investments in life and reparation. To this, CDF-NY declares, ‘Not so in 2024.’”  Willie D. Francois, III, New York Theological Seminary’s Associate Professor of Liberation Theology & Director of the MPS Program at Sing Sing.

The Children’s Defense Fund-New York (CDF-NY) has a unique approach to improving conditions for children, combining research, public education, policy development, direct services, and advocacy. A recognized authority in the endeavor to protect New York children and strengthen their families, CDF-NY serves as a resource and partner for children, families and organizations throughout New York State.