The Children’s Defense Fund seeks to educate the public to threats facing children in America, and to solutions that improve the odds for children to reach their potential. The Black Community Crusade for Children® (BCCC®), Cradle to Prison Pipeline®, Protect Children Not Guns and Be Careful What You Cut campaigns— were designed to mobilize child advocates by providing key information and tools to create meaningful change — in their communities, online, and at the national level. Learn more about CDF campaigns and how you can make a difference.

End Child Poverty

California has the highest child poverty rate in the nation.

We engage in research and policy analysis and build coalitions to advocate for policies at the local, state, and federal levels that reduce child poverty. We support state legislation and budget actions and local efforts to invest in policies and programs that increase employment and make work pay for parents and expand the social safety net to ensure children’s basic needs are met.

We also recognize the need to create policies that break the cycle of poverty by ensuring children and families have access to affordable health care, quality early learning, high-performing schools, and families and neighborhoods free from violence. 

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Justice for Youth

Juvenile incarceration is expensive and ineffective.

We develop innovative research, public policy and best practices that empower lawmakers and communities to expand effective community based alternatives to juvenile incarceration. We also work closely with systems leaders to ensure that youth in the state's juvenile justice facilities receive fair, positive, and developmentally appropriate treatment.

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Be Careful What You Cut

Cutting children from the budget now will cost us later. This campaign is about bringing the real dangers of cutting child investments into sharp focus to build the public will and make the economic case to protect children from budget cuts. It’s a simple calculation, really. Protect now or pay later.

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Black Community Crusade for Children® (BCCC)

The Black Community Crusade for Children® (BCCC®) was launched in 1990 to combat one of the worst crises the Black child and family has faced since slavery and confront the deepening crisis faced by Black children. A toxic cocktail of poverty, illiteracy, racial disparity, violence and massive incarceration is sentencing millions of children of color to dead end, powerless and hopeless lives and threatens to undermine the past half century of racial and social progress. Over the past two-and-a-half decades, BCCC’s successes include the CDF Freedom Schools® program; the Harlem Children’s Zone; youth leadership development programs which have trained 20,000 young leaders; economic empowerment work in 77 “Black Belt” southern counties; and the placed-based policy work of PolicyLink.

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Protect Children Not Guns

One child or teen dies or is injured from guns every 30 minutes. Gun violence saturates our children’s lives. More children and teens die from guns every three days than died in the Newtown massacre. The number of children under five killed by guns in 2012 was higher than the number of law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty that same year. We can do better. Join us in our campaign to stand up, speak out, and organize with urgency and persistence until all legislators at the national, state and local levels protect children instead of guns. Every child’s life is sacred, and it is long past time that we pass common-sense gun safety regulations to give all children in America a safe start in life.

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Cradle to Prison Pipeline®

Nationally, 1 in 3 Black and 1 in 6 Latino boys born in 2001 are at risk of imprisonment during their lifetime. While boys are five times as likely to be incarcerated as girls, there also is a significant number of girls in the juvenile justice system. This rate of incarceration is endangering children at younger and younger ages.

This is America's pipeline to prison — a trajectory that leads to marginalized lives, imprisonment and often premature death. Although the majority of fourth graders cannot read at grade level, states spend about three times as much money per prisoner as per public school pupil.

CDF's vision with it's Cradle to Prison Pipeline campaign, which is launched nationally in 2007, is to reduce incarceration by increasing preventive supports and services children need, such as access to quality early childhood development and education services and accessible, comprehensive health and mental health coverage. Emphasis must be shifted for the sake of our children and our nation's future.

Cradle to Prison Pipeline Conference in Sacramento

In 2009, the CDF-CA office teamed up with our national office to host a conference in Sacramento to officially launch our statewide efforts to dismantle the pipeline to prison and replace it with a pipeline to career and college. The conference provided a comprehensive overview of the challenges young people are facing, from access to health care to failing schools to a harmful juvenile justice system, as well as showing the way forward by lifting up best practices. The conference was followed up by a number of coalition and planning meetings in Oakland and Los Angeles.

Current efforts to dismantle the Cradle to Prison Pipeline in California

In California, CDF-CA has focused on dismantling the pipeline to prison by focusing on access to affordable health care reducing harsh and unjust school discipline policies pushing children and youth out of school, and to make it more rehabilitative. CDF-CA advocates for policy and systems change on a statewide and local level to ensure the right investments are made in young people. CDF-CA also works to dismantle the pipeline to prison through youth programs, including CDF Freedom Schools and the Beat the Odds scholarship program that work to level the playing field of opportunity for young people.

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