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Children's Defense Fund

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Children's Defense Fund
Founded1973; 51 years ago (1973)
FounderMarian Wright Edelman
Legal statusFoundation
FocusChild Welfare
HeadquartersWashington, D.C.
United States of America
Rev. Dr. Starsky Wilson
Key people
Starsky Wilson, President & CEO[1]
Increase $21,338,231 (2013)[2]
ExpensesIncrease $22,048,162 (2013)[2]

The Children's Defense Fund (CDF) is an American 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization based in Washington, D.C., that focuses on child advocacy and research. It was founded in 1973 by Marian Wright Edelman.[2]


The CDF was founded in 1973, citing inspiration from the Civil Rights Movement, with the goal of improving federal policies concerning child welfare and public education systems.[3][4]

CDF is headquartered in Washington, D.C., and has offices in several states around the country: California, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Mississippi, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas. CDF programs operate in 28 states.[5]


Since its founding, the CDF has lobbied for passing legislation related to its goals including the Education for All Handicapped Children Act[3] in 1975 (now known as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) and the Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act in 1980. Its legislative interests have also included Head Start, Medicaid, Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP), and the Child Tax Credit.[3]

The CDF has run several public awareness campaigns, including the Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Campaign in 1986,[6] a gun violence prevention campaign, and ending child poverty.

The CDF's programs include a modern Freedom Schools program launched in 1993 for child enrichment through reading,[7][8] a Beat the Odds program launched in 1990 that hosts awareness events and awards partial college scholarships,[4][9] and a Youth Advocacy Leadership Training fund.[citation needed]

In recent years, CDF funds generated numerous child advocacy reports. These reports range in topic, from ending child poverty and minority incarceration rates (and the school to prison pipeline) to gun safety concerning children.[10][11]

In 2008, the CDF was among the charities receiving donations from the "Idol Gives Back" televised fundraising event.[12]

Numerous notable individuals have been actively involved with the charity. Reese Witherspoon served on the Board of Directors.[13] J.J. Abrams has funded CDF Freedom Schools in the past.[4]

On September 2, 2020, CDF announced the appointment of Rev. Dr. Starsky Wilson to succeed Marian Wright Edelman as CEO. Wilson began his tenure as President and CEO in December 2020.[14][15]


  1. ^ "Nation's Top Child Advocacy Organization, the Children's Defense Fund, Announces Historic Leadership Change". BusinessWire.com. 2 September 2020. Retrieved 2021-02-15.
  2. ^ a b c "Charity Navigator Rating – Children's Defense Fund". Charity Navigator. Retrieved 2016-02-07.
  3. ^ a b c Cousins, Linwood H. (2014-09-05). Encyclopedia of Human Services and Diversity. SAGE Publications. ISBN 9781483346656.
  4. ^ a b c "Children's Defense Fund Joins Forces With JJ Abrams To Celebrate Founder Marian Wright Edelman's Vision". Forbes. Retrieved 2016-02-08.
  5. ^ "Children's Defense Fund". www.guidestar.org. Archived from the original on 2019-04-01. Retrieved 2021-04-27.
  6. ^ "Teen Pregnancy in America Today". The Huffington Post. 13 November 2008. Retrieved 2016-02-08.
  7. ^ "For the love of learning: Freedom Schools go above and beyond helping kids grow". kansascity. Retrieved 2016-02-08.
  8. ^ "Freedom Schools programs come to Sacramento for first time". sacbee. Retrieved 2016-02-08.
  9. ^ Stedman, Alex (6 December 2013). "Jennifer Garner, Conan O'Brien Honor Amazing Kids at Beat the Odds Awards". Variety. Retrieved 2016-02-08.
  10. ^ Radio, Southern California Public (2012-03-08). "Navigating the 'school-to-prison-pipeline' for minorities". Southern California Public Radio. Retrieved 2016-02-08.
  11. ^ Protect Children, not Guns
  12. ^ "Simon Cowell Donates Paycheck to Idol Gives Back". PEOPLE.com. Retrieved 2016-02-08.
  13. ^ Dore, Shalini (23 July 2015). "Reese Witherspoon to Receive American Cinematheque Award". Variety. Retrieved 2016-02-08.
  14. ^ "Starsky Wilson Brings His Leadership to the Helm of Children's Defense Fund". NonprofitQuarterly.org. 10 December 2020. Retrieved 2021-02-15.
  15. ^ "Nation's Top Child Advocacy Organization, the Children's Defense Fund, Announces Historic Leadership Change". BusinessWire.com. 2 September 2020. Retrieved 2021-02-15.