In Defense of Children

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Viewpoints and analysis from the CDF Policy team on issues impacting children. CDF’s policy advocacy focuses on the whole child because children don’t come in pieces. We seek to end child poverty and give every child a healthy start, a quality early childhood experience, a level education playing field, safe families and communities free from violence—with special attention to children involved in the child welfare and juvenile justice systems.


Reflecting on the 26th Amendment After 50 Years

Rooted in our history in the civil rights movement, CDF will continue to fight to ensure that fifty years from now, we can celebrate a 2021 civic redemption, built and led by young leaders who are standing up to finally fulfill the promise of the 26th Amendment.

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Supreme Court Rules on Foster Care Non-Discrimination Case

While this decision did not undermine the right of state and local governments to protect children and families from taxpayer-funded discrimination, it does underscore how tenuous these protections can be. The decision is a potent reminder of how crucial it is that we pass the John Lewis Every Child Deserves a Family Act (S.1848/ H.R. 3488) to ensure that all children and youth in the child welfare system are safe from discrimination, no matter where they live or who they love.

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CDF Endorses the CAPTA Reauthorization Act of 2021

Senators Patty Murray (D-WA) and Richard Burr (R-NC) have introduced the CAPTA Reauthorization Act of 2021 (S. 1927), which would reauthorize and amend the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act. The Children’s Defense Fund was proud to endorse this legislation because of its significant increase in funding for prevention, its emphasis on race equity in child welfare, its overdue focus on child abuse and neglect fatalities, and the fact that the law would guarantee right to counsel for children and parents in all cases involving child abuse and neglect allegations.

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What President Biden’s Fiscal Year 2022 Budget Means for Our Nation’s Children and Families

President Biden recently released his Fiscal Year (FY) 2022 Budget request to Congress to strengthen the economy, address longstanding racial disparities, and ensure a more equitable future for our children. After a year marked by such dramatic change and drastic negative impact on children’s lives, we need meaningful investments in supports for children and families. President Biden’s FY22 budget request starts to do just that.

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What the American Families Plan Means for our Nation’s Children

On the eve of his 100th day in office, President Biden released the American Families Plan, outlining a bold proposal with $1.8 trillion in historic investments in our nation’s children and families including expanded tax credits, investments in child care, universal preschool, two years of tuition-free community college, a national paid leave program, and more.

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The American Jobs Plan Will Help Ensure a Strong Economy and Future for Our Children

The American Jobs Plan is the first of a two-part effort to invest in our children’s future and build towards a stronger and more equitable economy—with provisions to address long-standing racial disparities and funding designated specifically for underserved Black communities and other communities of color. Congress must now build on President Biden’s proposal and invest in our nation’s most precious resource—our children— ensuring we do not return to a fragile and inequitable status quo.

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What the American Rescue Plan Act Means for Children and Families

Today, Congress took the final step to pass the American Rescue Plan Act, which President Biden is expected to subsequently sign into law. The $1.9 trillion relief package, for which President Biden’s proposal served as the foundation, marks a bold step forward in the fight for our children’s future. The American Rescue Plan Act will provide immediate relief for children and families, work to address the racial and economic injustices that COVID-19 has exacerbated, and take a long overdue step to address our nation’s shameful child poverty crisis, cutting child poverty in half in 2021.

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Biden Administration Halts Taxpayer-Funded Discrimination Rule for Foster Care

On February 10, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) agreed to a court order halting the Trump-era License to Discriminate rule, one day before it would have gone into effect. This rule, first introduced in November of 2019, would have rescinded regulations that provided blanket non-discrimination protections from HHS-funded programs. Without those protections, child welfare providers using taxpayer funds could have turned away eligible foster and adoptive parents simply because of their religion, sexual orientation, or gender identity and discriminated against the children they are meant to serve on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

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New Report on Child Maltreatment Showcases Rates of Abuse and Neglect Across the Country

This year’s report indicates that the number of children who were deemed to be victims of child maltreatment fell in 2019; however, so did the number of children receiving federally-funded services to prevent child abuse and neglect by supporting and strengthening families. And variations in rates of child maltreatment varied greatly by state, age, and race.

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Trump Administration Uses Final Days to Provide License to Discriminate in Child Welfare

Last week, in one of its final actions, the Trump Administration finalized a rule that would allow taxpayer-funded discrimination in the child welfare system. The rule reverses Obama-era regulations that provided blanket protections on the basis of sex, religion, gender identity, and sexual orientation from programs receiving federal funds from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). This rule is a license to discriminate and is in direct opposition to the cardinal rule of child welfare, that the best interest of the child is paramount.

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2020: CDF’s Year in Review

The Children’s Defense Fund spent much of 2020 pushing Congress to take action to protect children and families from the harmful impacts of our country’s health, economic, and racial disparities while continuing to defend against harmful regulatory and administrative policies set forth by the Trump administration.  Our commitment to children and policies that protect them has never wavered, and we know we have many fights ahead to keep children and families safe in the new year. But as we reach the end of an unprecedented year, we are taking a moment to celebrate some important wins for children and families in 2020. 

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After Nine Months of Neglecting the Needs of Children and Families, Congress Will Finally Vote on a COVID Relief Bill

After nine months of failing to pass a COVID relief bill and neglecting the needs of millions of children and families suffering the unprecedented public health, racial justice, and economic and unemployment crisis brought on by this pandemic, Congress will finally vote on a long overdue bipartisan relief bill. While this package was a step in the right direction under a strict timeline ahead of the holidays, it does not include many additional provisions that are needed to fully meet the needs of all our nation’s children and families, especially the most vulnerable.

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The SUNSET Proposed Rule Would Undermine Important HHS Services for Children and Families

On November 4th, the Trump Administration released a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that, if implemented, would dramatically alter the regulatory landscape and would bury the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) under a mountain of red tape for the next two years. The thousands of regulations in place at HHS are crucial for keeping children healthy, safe, and prepared to succeed. Our children deserve a regulatory environment that is carefully crafted to protect their safety and well-being, not one that has been hastily constructed under arbitrary rules.

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The Work That Remains

On behalf of the Children’s Defense Fund, I’m asking you to recommit yourself to the important work of eradicating the evils of poverty and racism and pushing for a just future for all children. This work is not easy, it can be uncomfortable, and it can be messy. But as fully engaged participants in this democracy, we must do the work.

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The Children’s Protection Act Will Bring Children’s Health and Wellbeing to the Forefront of Rule-Making

While proposed regulations often have a significant impact on children, that impact is rarely made explicit as part of the formal regulatory process. Currently, federal agencies are not required to analyze or share how regulatory changes could impact or harm children. To address this issue, House Oversight Committee Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney and Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley introduced the Children’s Protection Act to better ensure our regulatory process prioritizes the health and wellbeing of our children.

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What the Latest COVID Relief Bill Means for Children

This week, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi introduced a new version of the HEROES Act. Despite the smaller price tag, this bill maintains many of the key priorities for children and families included in the May bill passed by the House, while also taking steps to address at least two critical pieces for children and families that to date, have been largely left out of Congress’ earlier efforts to ensure relief: significant funding for the child care sector and critical investments to help support children, youth, and families across the child welfare continuum. While this new bill may still fall short of all of the things we know children and families need to weather this health and economic crisis, it’s imperative that Congress take this crucial next step to ensure long overdue relief now. 

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Nation’s Thirst for Pandemic Relief No Match for McConnell’s Hunger for Power

200,000 Americans dead from COVID-19 and millions more marching for racial justice did not move Mitch McConnell to act, but one death on the Supreme Court propelled him into action. Just hours after Justice Ginsburg died, Majority Leader McConnell was rallying his troops in preparation for one of the quickest and most controversial Supreme Court confirmations ever.

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Breonna Taylor and the Invisibility of Black Women and Girls in America

We’re in both an unusual and special time as a country. Unusual in that, in the midst of an intensified election year, where so many legislative decisions can negatively impact the livelihoods of the most vulnerable children and families, and the countless protests against racial injustice and police brutality happening all over the country, we are also searching for a level of normalcy from the effects of the pandemic in our everyday lives. This time is also special and calls for urgency in the continued push, pull and pressure to ensure long-lasting radical change for society as whole, but more importantly for America’s most oppressed and marginalized groups of people.  

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Introducing our 2020 Voter Guides

To help make voting more accessible, CDF has released its 2020 voter guides. Our guides explain why voting matters at every level of government (the presidential election is not the only election on the ballot!), highlight the children’s issues that are at stake in this election, and help you make a plan to vote smartly and safely, especially within the context of COVID-19.

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What the Supreme Court Means for Children

The Supreme Court will continue to be one of the most powerful forces shaping the lives of children and the world we are leaving for them. In a time of growing polarization, we continue to see more cases decided on close margins, giving a single Justice the power to profoundly impact the health, safety, and well-being of millions of children for generations to come. Confirming a new Justice is one of the most consequential actions that a Senator can take and as with any vote they take, CDF believes it is  imperative they do so with the interests of children in mind.

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Jacob Blake and the Violence Against Children

We will continue to demand accountability and systemic change on behalf of Black children and families across this country. We urge elected officials at all levels of government to enact policy that pushes further and to seek radical change to dismantle the systems that create tragedies like these.

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A New Investigation Found Waivers to Allow Discrimination in Child Welfare are Not in the Best Interest of Children

The House Committee on Ways and Means recently released the findings of a year-long investigation into a waiver the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) granted South Carolina in January of last year. CDF was one of 11 organizations asked by Representatives John Lewis and Danny Davis to submit expert testimony for the investigation. We proudly and unequivocally believe that discrimination is never in the best interest of children and that truly serving children requires affirming their identities and the identities of their caregivers.

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CDF Joined an Amicus Brief on Fulton v City of Philadelphia to Make It Clear Discrimination is Harmful for Children

The Children’s Defense Fund is proud to join an amicus brief on behalf of the City of Philadelphia in the Fulton v. the City of Philadelphia case. As we argued in response to the South Carolina waiver and the Notice of Proposed Rule Making law year, discrimination in any form is harmful for children. In a time when there is a huge shortage in foster families and when more than 125,000 children are waiting to be adopted, allowing agencies to turn away LGBTQ adults who want to provide loving, stable families is diametrically opposed to the best interest of the children those agencies are meant to serve.

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House Ways and Means Subcommittee Releases Bill that Provides Much Needed Support to Children and Families in the Child Welfare System Due to COVID-19

On Friday, August 7, Chairman Danny Davis (D-IL) and Ranking Member Jackie Walorski (R-IN) of the Worker and Family Support Subcommittee of the House Ways and Means Committee released the bipartisan Supporting Foster Youth and Families through the Pandemic Act (H.R.7947), which provides critical supports to children and families in the child welfare system in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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The Senate’s Proposal, the HEALS Act, Falls Far Short of Meeting the Needs of Children and Families in Crisis

The Senate returned to work last week promising to unveil additional COVID-19 relief legislation that their Republican leadership said would focus on “making sure we take care of our kids” in the face of the unprecedented national economic and public health crisis. This week, they finally introduced their idea of relief—The HEALS Act—and it falls far short of the meeting the needs of children and families in this country.

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The Senate Promised to Focus on Kids in the Next COVID-19 Relief Package. Here’s What They Should Do

The Senate returned to work in Washington this week promising to act on additional COVID-19 relief legislation that their Republican leadership says will be focused on “bringing back jobs and making sure we take care of our kids.” But for more than two months, as children and families suffered, with Black families and other families of color disproportionately losing their lives and livelihoods to this crisis, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) “hit pause” on additional relief legislation and refused to take up the HEROES Act passed by the House of Representatives in mid-May, which builds on the groundwork laid by previous coronavirus relief packages to ease the damaging health and economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. As the Senate considers additional relief legislation this week, they must prioritize the needs of children and families

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Family Unity: It’s the foundational principle of child welfare law and woven into the moral fabric of our society. Families belong together. This is not supposed to be a controversial concept. Yet the Trump Administration continues to advance family separation policies for immigrant families, both at the border and within the interior of the U.S.

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U.S. Senators Sherrod Brown, Kamala D. Harris, Bob Casey and Catherine Cortez Masto Introduce Much-Needed Legislation to Support Child Welfare Services During COVID-19

On July 2nd, Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH), alongside Senators Kamala D. Harris (D-CA), Bob Casey (D-PA), and Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), introduced the Child Welfare Emergency Assistance Act. The bill will provide a much-needed infusion of resources to help the child welfare system adequately respond to the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic.

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New Analysis from CDF: Increase Chafee Funds to Protect and Support Foster Care Youth

To date, Congress has failed to provide older youth from foster care with relief amid the pandemic. Surveys show that the majority of these youth who have lost jobs have not received the increased unemployment insurance provided in the CARES Act and most have not received stimulus payments. Still, there have been no federal funds dedicated to meet their pressing needs. CDF, and our other child welfare partners, urge Congress to provide $500 million in emergency funding to the John H. Chafee Program for Successful Transition to Adulthood to help stabilize these youth.

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Speaker Pelosi Unveils the HEROES Act Which Takes Needed Steps to Support Children and Families through the COVID-19 Pandemic

We applaud the many important provisions laid out in the HEROES Act and will continue urging both chambers of Congress to include these and other steps to ensure our most vulnerable children and families can weather this crisis.

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Amid COVID-19, We Must Protect Our Most Vulnerable Children From Lasting Harm

Those disproportionately impacted by this crisis were either completely left out of the previous relief packages or have additional, critical needs that must be addressed in Congress’ next response to the COVID-19 crisis. We cannot allow this crisis to continue to exacerbate existing disparities, hit our most vulnerable children the hardest, and cause lasting harm.

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Please stay calm, stay safe, and stay strong. We will get through this together.

The Children’s Defense Fund’s commitment to protecting all children and families is more important now than ever. We are quickly adapting to meet the challenges of the COVID-19 public health emergency with urgency and impact.

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Congress Must Support Families and Address Further Strain to Child Welfare System

On behalf of nearly 600 national, state, and local organizations, CDF sent a letter to Congressional leaders urging Congress to act immediately to equip the child welfare system with the tools it needs to handle this crisis. Strengthening the system to face these challenges requires a comprehensive approach that addresses the entire child welfare continuum.

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Thinking of Our Children During the State of the Union Address

Tonight President Trump will address the nation as he delivers his State of the Union remarks. Reports suggest he will present a “relentless optimism,” but our newly-released annual report—State of American’s Children 2020—offers a dramatically different picture: the current state of our children is unacceptable and must be urgently addressed.

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Proposed Rule Will Allow Taxpayer-Funded Discrimination within Child Welfare System

CDF submitted comments against this proposed rule as it is a license to discriminate and is in direct opposition to the cardinal rule of child welfare, that the best interests of the child must always be paramount. Simply put, this rule threatens the safety, permanency and well-being of children.

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DACA Termination Flouts this Nation’s Promise to Children

More than a quarter of a million children have at least one parent who is a DACA recipient. Canceling DACA increases the risk of family separation and is in direct contrast to the fundamental promise of the child welfare system that every child should have the opportunity to grow up in a safe, stable and loving family. The Supreme Court must keep this in mind when weighing the arguments it heard yesterday.  

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HHS Proposed Rule Will Hurt Children

Last Friday, the Trump administration released draft language for a proposed rule that would remove important Obama-era non-discrimination regulations. The rule would reverse a regulation stating that “no person otherwise eligible will be excluded from participation in, denied the benefits of, or subjected to discrimination,” in any program that was funded by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

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Schools’ Misuse of Child Welfare System Puts Children at Risk

Coordination and partnership between school systems and child welfare systems is essential. Teachers, who in most states are mandatory reporters, often serve as the frontline when it comes to identifying children in their classrooms who might be suffering from abuse or neglect and filing reports with their local child welfare agencies. As a result, educators and other school staff make up the largest percentage of abuse and neglect reports, and protect countless children every year by. But recently we’ve seen several troubling cases of schools misusing—and thus endangering—this important relationship.

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