This year’s conference, Pursuing Justice for Children and the Poor with Urgency and Power, will offer compelling workshops focusing on topics such as Early Childhood, Parent Empowerment, and Health and Nutrition. Nearly half of the 3000 registered attendees are youth leaders, ages 18-30, who will participate in the conference’s Youth Advocate Leadership Training (YAFT) to bring a different and innovative perspective to the issues discussed.
Civil Rights Activist Marian Wright-Edelman founded the CDF in 1973. Edelman, who was the first black woman admitted to the Mississippi Bar in the 1960s, served as director for the Center of Law and Education at Harvard University before starting the CDF.
Today, the CDF has become one of the leading voices for children and families in the nation.
“As Mrs. Edelman has said, ‘this isn’t a talk conference, this is an action conference.’ We are looking to close the gaps between what we know works and what can be done in practice,” said CDF’s Vice President of Communications and Outreach Patty Hassler. “There has never been such an urgent time for children. The confluence of the economic downturn and the budget cuts have created crisis for our children.”
A major area of focus for this year’s conference is juvenile justice and mass incarceration. CDF has launched the “Cradle to Prison Pipeline” campaign to address the issues of unjust incarcerations in the United States.
According to Hessler, a black boy born in 2001 has a 1 in 3 chance of going to prison in his lifetime; a Latino boy has a 1 in 6 chance.
With a focus on poverty, racial disparities, zero tolerance school discipline policies, and the achievement gap between poor and non-poor children, YAFT and conference attendees will discuss how these factors combined contribute to the “Cradle to Prison Pipeline” and what must be done to dismantle it.
“Zero tolerance school discipline policies do so much to push children out of school and into prison,” Hessler added.
CDF hopes this year’s conference will give attendees the concrete tools – learning what is known to work and taking action – to make a difference in the communities they serve, making children the priority.
“This is a political year, children cannot vote for themselves, so we are looking to educate people so that people can vote for children –so that children will become part of the national conversation,” said Hessler.