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.

Leadership & Staff

Executive Team

Oleta Fitzgerald
Southern Regional Director
(601) 321-1966 x 102


Gloria Shields
SRO Program Associate
Benefits Bank Coordinator
(601) 321-1966

Gloria J. Sturdevant
SRBWI Organizer
(662) 931-1944

Kim Robinson
Program Assoicate
National Initiatives
(601) 321-1966 x 113


Amanda Furdge
Youth Program Coordinator
(601) 321-1966 x 101

Rubystine Bridges
Senior Administrative Assistant
(843) 479-5310

Shirlett Stapleton
Administrative Services Manager
(601) 321-1966 x 106


Mary Cook
Cleaning Staff
(843) 479-5310

Mary Fennell
Senior Program Operations Associate
(843) 479-5310

Shaquite Pegues
Director of Ella Baker Leadership Development
(843) 479-5310

Board of Directors

Lan Bentsen, Co-Chair
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
Oakland, CA
Laphonza Butler
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
Children's Defense Fund
Washington, DC
DD Eisenberg
Child Advocate
Coral Gables, FL
George Gresham
1199 SEIU
Bronx, NY
Clay Grubb
Grubb Properties, Inc.
Charlotte, NC
Ruth-Ann Huvane
Child Advocate
Los Angeles, CA
Deborah Jewell-Sherman
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
Los Angeles, CA
Bryan Stevenson, Esq.
Founder and Executive Director
Equal Justice Initiative
Montgomery, AL
Ali Wentworth
New York, NY
Reese Witherspoon
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.
Dorothy Height
Donna E. Shalala,
Chair, 1992 – 1993
Laura Chasin
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.
Robert Vagt,
Chair, 2005 – 2008
John Deardourff
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
Laura Wasserman Winifred Green
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





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.