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The Children's Defense Fund

The Children's Defense Fund at Notre Dame is a campus branch of the National Children's Defense Fund in Washington, DC. Our mission is to inform, educate and motivate the students of Notre Dame. Currently, we are working in four basic areas: SPROUT, the Student Poverty Reduction Outreach; a lecture series; publicity; and community engagement and outreach. During the fall semester, we will be working closely with organizations like Rock the Vote to ensure children are not forgotten in the upcoming elections.

Mission Statement

The Children’s Defense Fund (CDF) has primarily been a research institution for the past 30 years that focuses on children in the US with a special emphasis on disadvantaged children. The CDF mission is to Leave No Child Behind‚ and to ensure every child a Healthy Start, A Head Start, a Fair Start, a Safe Start, and a Moral Start in life and a successful passage to adulthood with the help of caring families and communities. They publish an annual report from the information gathered throughout their research called, The State of America’s Children. Furthermore, CDF uses their research and reports to provide a strong, effective voice for all the children of America who cannot vote, lobby, or speak for themselves. They care deeply about public policy that will affect children and are constantly working to Leave No Child Behind.

CDF at Notre Dame

The Notre Dame campus chapter of the Children’s Defense Fund (CDF) was founded in the Fall of 2003. Although CDF has primarily been a research and advocacy group over the past 30 years, they have begun to see the need for a nation wide movement for children and children’s rights. They believe that no movement has ever been successful without the support of college campuses and are therefore looking towards informing, educating, and motivating college students across the nation to work for this movement. Notre Dame is the first CDF campus chapter in the US and is privileged to have such a role.

Dennis Barrett, a senior at the University, had an internship at CDF while also studying abroad in Washington DC in the spring of 2002. Both Dennis and the staff at CDF in Washington saw Notre Dame as the perfect place to have the first campus chapter of CDF. Notre Dame students are passionate about doing service work and often spend time working directly with children. Yet, there seems to be a general lack of social awareness about issues and policies that affect the youth of this nation. The goal of the CDF campus chapter is try to close that gap by showing how both social action and social awareness are connected issues. Therefore, with the support of the Center for Social Concerns we are currently targeting students at Notre Dame who already do service work with children to become involved with CDF.

Our Needs

First, we are currently in the midst of putting together the schedule of lectures for the rest of the semester and would love any input or connections on people who would be interested in speaking to the group. Issues we are looking to include are public policy, education, health care, homelessness, hunger, Head Start, violence/abuse, and drugs and alcohol.

Second, we are looking for people to continue to spread the word about CDF. We hope that anyone who is interested would hear about who we are, what we are doing, and when we are having lectures. Because we are looking to start a movement without any money, word of mouth invitations are extremely important and will hopefully help bring awareness to issues of America’s youth to those who are interested. We are excited about the remainder of the year and the future of CDF on the Notre Dame campus. We look forward to any relationship that the Institute of Educational Initiatives and CDF might have. Thanks for your interest in the Children’s Defense Fund. If you have any questions please feel free to contact Susie Skirtich at sskirt01@saintmarys.edu or 284-8245 at any time.


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