The Partnership for America’s Children presented the 2020 Florette Angel Memorial Child Advocacy Award to Rich Huddleston, Executive Director of Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families. The presentation took place during an online celebration of and for the Partnership network.
The Partnership for America’s Children is a network of state and local child advocacy organizations working to improve policies affecting children at the local, state, and national level. The Partnership strengthens members’ policy knowledge, advocacy skills, and organizational development by connecting them to peer expertise and national resources, and by facilitating collaborative efforts to improve the lives of all America’s children.
The Florette Angel Memorial Child Advocacy Award is named for West Virginia child advocate, Florette Angel, who grew up in racially-polarized Mississippi in the 1940s. It honors the executive director of a Partnership member organization who has been nominated by their colleagues and selected by a panel of their peers. It reflects the admiration and respect of the Partnership community for someone who exemplifies the best of child advocacy. This annual award, which dates back to 1996, is given to an executive director who has:
*demonstrated exemplary leadership as a representative for the interests of children and their families across a number of policy issues;
*successfully promoted public policies and investments that help improve the lives of children and families, with a particular focus on those experiencing poverty;
*played a critical role in articulating and championing the needs of children and defending their interests in the political process, even when those positions were not popular; and
*advanced the growth and credibility of multi-issue child advocacy as a profession.
The 2020 honoree was Rich Huddleston, Executive Director of Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families (AACF). AACF is a multi-issue child advocacy organization whose agenda includes increasing access to health care, addressing income insecurity, and ensuring equity in education. Rich has been AACF’s executive director since 2004 and, for nine years prior, served as its research and fiscal policy director. His leadership style and creative advocacy strategies, including his unique ability to integrate tax policy with child advocacy, make him a very effective champion for families.
Despite the challenges of advocating for children in Arkansas, under Rich’s leadership, AACF played a pivotal role in passing Medicaid expansion in Arkansas to increase access to health insurance for more children and adults and in pushing back a proposal for work requirements for Medicaid recipients. In 2019, Rich led AACF’s successful effort to reform juvenile justice services. Moreover, he has prioritized race equity at AACF and operationalized it in a meaningful way by creating the position of race equity director in 2019 and raising funds to staff it. Other recent accomplishments include working closely with partners to pass a 2018 ballot initiative that increased the minimum wage in Arkansas, securing paid maternity leave for state employees in 2017, and successfully promoting a 2017 school discipline law designed to keep Arkansas’s youngest children in the classroom.
Rich works effectively in state and national partnerships and coalitions, as both a leader and a member, representing Arkansas in critical national conversations. He elevates the voices of other advocates and generously offers his time and support to colleagues throughout the network. He has made significant contributions to the field of child advocacy as a founding member of the Board.