Our Mission

Our Mission

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. CDF provides a strong, effective and independent voice for all the children of America who cannot vote, lobby or speak for themselves. We pay particular attention to the needs of poor children, children of color and those with disabilities. CDF educates the nation about the needs of children and encourages preventive investments before they get sick, drop out of school, get into trouble or suffer family breakdown. CDF began in 1973 and is a private, nonprofit organization supported by individual donations, foundation, corporate and government grants.

About Us

The Children's Defense Fund grew out of the Civil Rights Movement under the leadership of Marian Wright Edelman in 1973. For more than 40 years, CDF has worked tirelessly to level the playing field for all children and move forward our Leave No Child Behind® mission 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. The Children’s Defense Fund-Southern Regional Office (CDF-SRO) opened in Jackson, Mississippi in January 1995 to improve policies and programs for children in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana and Mississippi.

Since 1995, CDF-SRO has built a network of religious and community organizations, children's advocates, youth leaders and public and elected officials across the South. Over the years, CDF-SRO has worked with black caucuses in southern states on their states' legislation to implement the Personal Responsibility Act of 1996; helped form the Mississippi Low Income Child Care Initiative; increased the number of Mississippi children enrolled in the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) from less than 700 to more than 60,000 in four years; and worked with legislative leaders and community partners to ensure that the Mississippi Adequate Education Program is fully funded to secure additional funding for the state's at risk students.

Board of Directors

Lan Bentsen, Co-Chair
Founder
Shape Tomorrow
Houston, TX
Carol Oughton Biondi
Board Member, California
State Advisory Committee
on Juvenile Justice &
Delinquency Prevention/
Board Member, ARC
(Anti-Recidivism Coalition
Los Angeles), CA
Angela Glover Blackwell, Co-Chair
Founder and CEO
PolicyLink
Oakland, CA
     
Laphonza Butler
President
SEIU-ULTCW
Los Angeles, CA
Deborah S. Cogut
Co-Founder and Vice Chair
The Polyphony Foundation
Greenwich, CT
Malaak Compton-Rock
Founder and Director
The Angelrock Project
New York, NY
     
 
George Gresham
Marian Wright Edelman
President
Children's Defense Fund
Washington, DC
DD Eisenberg
Child Advocate
Coral Gables, FL
George Gresham
President
1199 SEIU
Bronx, NY
     
Clay Grubb
President
Grubb Properties, Inc.
Charlotte, NC
Ruth-Ann Huvane
Child Advocate
Los Angeles, CA
Deborah Jewell-Sherman
Director
Urban Superintendents Program
and Professor of Practice,
Harvard Graduate School
of Education, MA
     
Katie McGrath
Child Advocate
Los Angeles, CA

Ivanna Omeechevarria
Child Advocate
Alexandria, VA

Wendy Puriefoy
Child Advocate
Boston, MA
     
Jurnee Smollett
 
Martin Rodgers
Managing Director
Washington, DC Metro
Office and Executive
Director of Accenture’s
Nonprofit Group
Jurnee Smollett-Bell
Actress
Los Angeles, CA
Bryan Stevenson, Esq.
Founder and Executive Director
Equal Justice Initiative
Montgomery, AL
     
 
Ali Wentworth
Actress
New York, NY
Reese Witherspoon
Actress
Los Angeles, CA
 
     

Former CDF Board Members and Emeriti

Kirbyjon Caldwell Lucy Hackney Dennis Rivera
     
Geoffrey Canada,
Chair, 2008 - 2014
Howard Haworth Johnathan Rodgers
     
Lisle Carter, Jr.
(deceased)
Dorothy Height
(deceased)
Donna E. Shalala,
Chair, 1992 – 1993
     
Laura Chasin
(deceased)
David Hornbeck,
Chair, 1994 – 2005
Barbara Shaw
     
Hillary Rodham Clinton,
Chair 1986 – 1992
The Reverend William Howard J. Michael Solar
     
Maureen Cogan James Joseph,
Chair, 1993 – 1994
Susan Thomases
     
Leonard Coleman, Jr. Deborah Leff Thomas Troyer
     
Leslie Cornfeld, Esq. Marilyn Levitt Jason Tyler
     
Leslee Dart William Lynch, Jr.
(deceased)
Robert Vagt,
Chair, 2005 – 2008
     
John Deardourff
(deceased)
Charles Merrill, Jr. Suzanne Weil
     
James Forbes, Jr. Heidi Miller Abigail Wexner
     
James Forman, Jr. Eileen Norton Deborah Wright
     
Henry Louis Gates, Jr. Leonard Riggio Pat Fallon
(deceased)
     
Laura Wasserman Winifred Green
(deceased)
 
Our Partners

Without the generous support of grants and donations from corporations and individuals, CDF-SRO would not be able to meet our mission. We would like to thank our current and past supporters.

CDF-SRO works collaboratively in partnership with the following organizations to help carry out the work of the Cradle to Prison Pipeline® Campaign

Rust College

 

Boys and Girls Club of Lauderdale County

 

East Mississippi State Hospital

ABT Group

 

The Human Relations Commission of Lauderdale County

 

Multi-County Community Agency

Young People’s Project

 

Mississippi Department of Education - Office of Dropout Prevention

 

Springhill Missionary Baptist Church

Boys and Girls Club of Central Mississippi

 

Mississippi Department of Human Services - Economic Assistance

 

Lauderdale County Youth Court

National Coalition of Community Researchers

 

Mississippi Valley State University

 

The Delta Consortium for Positive Change

Delta Foundation

 

Delta Economic Development Center of Washington County

 

Cleveland High School

Cleveland School District

 

Southern Christian Services for Children and Youth

 

City of Hattiesburg

Parents for Public Schools

 

Jackson State University

 

Fannie Lou Hamer National Institute on Citizenship and Democracy

Callaway High School

 

Mississippi State University Extension Service

 

City of Jackson

Target

 

BankPlus

 

United Healthcare

Richard Schwartz and Associates

 

Mattie C. Stewart Foundation

   

Partners in Arkansas

       

Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families

 

Arkansas Black Hall of Fame Foundation

 

Arkansas Department of Human Services/Division of Youth Services

City of Little Rock – Community Programs

 

Charles A. Frueauff Foundation

 

Greater Graduation – Central Arkansas

Summit Bank

 

Arkansas Association of Alternative Educators

 

Derek Lewis Foundation

Pygmalion Commission

 

Roman Catholic Diocese of Little Rock

 

Southern Partners Fund

Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation

 

Arkansas Children’s Hospital

 

Arkansas Community Foundation

Arkansas Democratic Black Caucus

 

Arkansas Minority Health Commission

 

Bank of the Ozarks

Hood and Associates Insurance Solution

 

Munro Foundation Incorporated

 

St. Vincent Health System

United Methodist Foundation of Arkansas

 

University of Arkansas at Little Rock – Institute for Economic Advancement

 

Arkansas Conference United Methodist Church,

Arkansas Interfaith Alliance

 

Episcopal Diocese of Arkansas

 

Presbytery of Arkansas

Join Our Team

Jobs at CDF

Employees of the Children's Defense Fund are dedicated to its mission 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. The work is meaningful and the people are great and your contributions will continue to help us to achieve our mission. The Children’s Defense Fund offers a comprehensive package of health and wellness benefits to employees and their families to ensure personal and financial health and well-being, as well as to provide some protection from significant financial harm due to prolonged injury, illness or death. In addition to the health and wellness benefits we also offer employees a discount on personal computer purchases through the Dell Employee Purchase Program. We strive to provide all employees a variety of benefits that are meaningful to them.

Learn more about positions currently available at CDF.

Internships at CDF

About 70 undergraduate, graduate and recent graduates intern in the CDF Washington, D.C. office each year and while a few of the internships give preference to certain majors everyone with a strong interest in child advocacy is encouraged to apply. CDF interns gain knowledge, skills, and experience for a lifetime commitment as a child advocate and public policy leader. They also get an insider's view of non-profit advocacy.

Learn more about CDF's Internship program and how to apply.