1991

Children’s Defense Fund – Marian Wright Edelman

…protecting those vulnerable in our country—our children. 


 Marian Wright Edelman, founder and president of the Children's Defense Fund (CDF).

Marian Wright Edelman, founder and president of the Children's Defense Fund (CDF).

Since 1973, the Children’s Defense Fund and its founder, Marian Wright Edelman, have been devoted to one cause—the welfare of children. Few activist organizations have dedicated themselves so wholly to one issue so single-mindedly as this.

Marian Wright Edelman was born in Bennettsville, South Carolina, and raised to value a good education. Holding a degree from Spelman College and a Juris Doctor from Yale Law School, Edelman became the first African American woman admitted to the Mississippi Bar. She began her law career by becoming active with the civil rights movement, working with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and eventually moving to Washington, D. C. Here she started the Washington Research Project, a law firm which kept a watchful eye on federal programs to aid low-income families. This led to Edelman’s founding of the Children’s Defense Fund. 

Children’s Defense Fund (CDF) is a non-profit organization that focuses on children and what they need to get a good start in life, a start that will enable them to become healthy, educated, upstanding adults. CDF is determined to “ensure every child a Healthy Start, a Head Start, a Fair Start, a Safe Start and a Moral Start [CDF’s italics] in life and successful passage into 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.” Through their research and partnerships with other organizations, CDF strives to present an accurate picture of the lives and issues many of today’s children face that can impede both their health and education, and hinder their chances of becoming compassionate members of society. CDF uses no government money; corporate grants and private donations alone fund their independent research projects as they advocate and lobby for U.S. policy changes. 

While CDF keeps pressure on Congress to enact laws and policies to improve national programs for all children, but especially low-income, at-risk children, they realize that local communities have a duty to take action as well. To that end, CDF has created several campaigns and programs designed to keep children safe and motivated to succeed. From general programs providing both summer and after-school activities as well as youth leadership training, to more targeted initiatives such as the Cradle to Prison Pipeline (aimed at reducing the likelihood of African American and Latino boys committing crimes and ending up in prison early in life), the Children’s Defense Fund wants every child to have whatever he or she needs for a healthy environment in which to grow up. 

For almost 40 years, the Children’s Defense Fund has been researching the welfare of children in the U.S. They then use their findings to educate the public, create programs to directly benefit children, and advocate for policy changes to help and support those whose voices cannot yet be heard for themselves.