Member Successes

For decades, our members have led state, local, and national policy campaigns for children and families. Click the arrows to expand the sections and learn about some of the ways that Partnership members have improved children’s lives.

Successes in Equity and Diversity

Partnership members have raised awareness of disparities in child outcomes by race, ethnicity, gender, and income; worked with communities of color to identify policy problems and pursue solutions; and supported programs, such as the Children’s Health Insurance Program, that help the most disadvantaged children. Often they pursue policy changes to eliminate disproportionate impact on children of color; thus Partnership members have secured more equitable discipline policies in schools and changed the status of minor offenses disproportionately charged against children of color, protecting them from having criminal records.


Children learn best when they are in school. Yet data show that exclusionary discipline practices like school arrests, expulsions, and suspensions occur all too often in Connecticut. In February 2015, Connecticut Voices for Children published a detailed report revealing not only the frequency but also the vast disparities in school disciplinary practices. It found that in 2013, Black students were over six times more likely to be suspended out-of-school, nearly 5 times more likely to be expelled, and nearly 5 times more likely to be arrested than their white peers. Moreover, it found that nearly one in ten student arrests were for non-criminal violations of school policy that could be more effectively handled in the classroom. In many cases, behaviors for which students were being arrested, expelled, or suspended could be prevented through earlier intervention and better access to services, or handled more effectively with lower-level school-based sanctions that address the true source of the misbehavior and work to correct it. Its research led to a statewide conversation on the use of exclusionary school discipline, and its policy prescriptions led to proposed legislation mandating better school discipline data collection and requiring school districts and local law enforcement agencies to work together to keep kids in class. Connecticut Voices for Children testified at the Capitol, met with legislators, and organized a coalition of juvenile justice advocates in support of the proposed legislation. As a result of its research and advocacy, the legislation gained bipartisan support, passed the Connecticut General Assembly, and was signed into law as Public Act 15-168.

By 2012 Voices for Children in Nebraska had become increasingly alarmed by the racial disparities shown annually in its KIDS COUNT report. Voices pulled together a group of partners to look at disparities and determine how to make progress. The group, Partners for Race and Equity in Nebraska, decided to start with a statewide conference where they could highlight the racial history of Nebraska, look at the data, let the data drive the conversation, and have a meeting. Voices for Children in Nebraska served as the coordinator for the conference planning group. Voices led its conversations with data — disaggregated data in context. Initially, the partners had hoped to hold a conference in 2013, but disagreements over the approach made that impossible. Some members of the group wanted to focus on individual acts of bigotry, others wanted to address the institutional factors that foster inequity — the macro perspective. The discussions were difficult. To help align the stakeholders around a common vision to address structural racism, Voices brought in the Race Matters Institute (RMI). It took months of having the same conversations, along with RMI as a credible partner, to finally get everyone in agreement. Voices brought in RMI again in May 2014 for a strategic planning meeting to make sure leaders understood they needed to be intentional about advancing race equity by examining structural bias and to begin the process by engaging stakeholders in conversations. By the end of the day, they began planning for a conference in December 2014.

The two-day, statewide conference included key audiences across all sectors: funders, city council members, state legislators, board members of nonprofits, and a few members of the business community. At the conference, the partners introduced a racial equity impact analysis tool. The tool provides a set of guiding questions to determine whether existing and proposed policies, programs, and practices are likely to close the gap for specific racial disparities. The conference also offered a broad array of sessions that explored how disparities affect children of color and created a sense of urgency to help them. On the second day of the conference, the group created action steps, with guidance on moving forward.

While it is too early to say whether these steps will be pursued, Voices for Children in Nebraska and its partners continue to address structural racism. For example, in early 2015 the Voices President was invited to address the Nebraska State School Board. She presented data on race equity and discussed its effects on children of color, using disaggregated data and telling stories to show how children were suffering. One board member, who was widely viewed as being hostile to issues of race equity, was visibly moved by the presentation, saying he had no idea that systemic racism was producing such horrible outcomes for children of color. Voices offered to come back to the board and do a training on the seven steps to racial equity. The board unanimously agreed that they wanted to receive this training.

Successes in Health

Partnership members have led campaigns that resulted in more children being covered by health insurance, more services (such as mental health care) available to children, more children eating breakfast at the start of the school day, and reduced infant mortality, among other achievements.


In 2004, the Colorado Children’s Campaign helped lead the effort to pass Amendment 35, a tobacco tax increase. It was a successful, collaborative effort that brought together a broad and diverse coalition of organizations to pass the only successful statewide voter-approved tax increase since the establishment of the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights in the early 1990s.

The Children’s Campaign helped lead Citizens for a Healthier Colorado, the broad and diverse group of health and business community leaders who came together to support Amendment 35. Children’s Campaign CEO, Barbara O’Brien, served as a co-chair of the Amendment 35 campaign along with retired Colorado State University President Al Yates. Together with a coalition of more than 100 supporting organizations, they earned the support of 61 percent of Colorado, with majority support coming from both Democratic and Republican areas of the state. The Children’s Campaign went on to coordinate the lobby team that would pass House Bill 05-1266 to implement the new tax.

Before the amendment passed, Colorado had the lowest tobacco taxes in the country — lower even than the tobacco-producing states North Carolina and Kentucky. Colorado also had a high rate of tobacco use. Increasing the tobacco tax helped to reduce consumption, particularly among price-sensitive youth populations. It also generated new and dedicated revenue for public programs to prevent youth tobacco use, support smokers who wanted to quit, and screen for deadly tobacco-related diseases like COPD and lung cancer. The revenue has also supported public health coverage expansion for low-income populations that were among those most likely to use tobacco and suffer from tobacco-related diseases.

Connecticut Voices for Children’s advocacy for early expansion of Medicaid expansion that has resulted in more than 93% of all state residents, and 96% of all state children, having health insurance coverage.

Delaware’s infant mortality rate took center stage upon the release of the National 2004 KIDS COUNT Data Book. Unfortunately, the attention was due to Delaware being ranked last in the country for infant mortality with a rate of 10.7 per 1,000 (the U.S. rate was 6.8 per 1,000). In advance of the national data book release, KIDS COUNT in Delaware convened a meeting of statewide stakeholders to discuss the possible reasons for the issue and a path forward. After a tension-filled three hour event, KIDS COUNT in Delaware wrote a “white paper” report that was distributed to all in attendance. Additionally, KIDS COUNT in Delaware encouraged local media to become involved and Delawareans became engaged as they began to read multiple articles and editorials about the issue. Delaware’s Governor focused her attention on this new initiative by appointing an Infant Mortality Task Force charged with generating specific recommendations for reducing the state’s infant mortality rate.

The Infant Mortality Task Force, co-chaired by a member of the KIDS COUNT in Delaware Board, worked diligently to identify solutions to the rising infant mortality rate. The effort culminated in $1 million of new funding being placed into the state FY06 budget (beginning July 2005) to implement key recommendations. KIDS COUNT in Delaware project director Terry Schooley (also a Delaware House Representative) cosponsored two bills that passed both House and Senate, establishing the Healthy Mothers and Infants Consortium as a successor to the Infant Mortality Task Force and generating funding for a comprehensive fetal infant death review board. Additionally, in her January 2006 State of the State address, the Governor announced that $1 million of new funds would be budgeted around the issue of preconception care, another of the task force recommendations. Close to $6 million was allocated through FY08 based on recommendations from the task force. This level of funding was a tangible display of the state’s commitment to making real change because it came at a time when a hiring freeze went into effect and agencies statewide were being asked to “give back” a percentage of their funding.

In March 2009, infant mortality took center stage once again. However, this time the attention was positive: a dip in the infant mortality rate. Delaware’s Healthy Mothers and Infants Consortium had encouraged action in the state including utilization of preconception care, implementation of a sophisticated monitoring system, and use of a family practice team model, and results of the combined efforts had finally begun to be reflected in state data. The work (and resulting downward trend in the data) continues although progress is slow.

Thirty percent of all kindergarten students in Nevada are either overweight or obese, which has been documented in the Nevada Institute for Children’s Research and Policy’s annual report, Health Status of Children Entering Kindergarten, released annually since 2010. In 2012, with that information in mind, the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services Division of Public and Behavioral Health established the Nevada Early Childhood Policy Workgroup. This workgroup included key partners from across the state of Nevada, including the Children’s Advocacy Alliance (CAA). The group gave recommendations for the Nevada Administrative Code to help combat childhood obesity. CAA’s role was to develop a written survey to identify support and opposition, as well as general comments or questions, related to each specific recommendation made from the workgroup. Sadly, the recommendations were not passed before the 2015 Legislative Session due to opposition. This prompted the CAA to work with the Nevada Legislature to pass Assembly Bill 152, which required the State Board of Health to adopt regulations for child care facilities to help prevent childhood obesity. Although the bill did not pass with all of the original provisions, it did provide breastfeeding and physical activity requirements, which were two of the main components of the bill. After the session, the Children’s Advocacy Alliance, in collaboration with Strong Start Nevada, a local early childhood awareness campaign, and the Southern Nevada Health District, worked to create toolkits for early childhood caregivers and parents to provide them with examples and tips for how they can promote healthy habits.

Advocates for the Children of New Jersey worked with other advocates to protect a statutorily dedicated fund for lead abatement. Former Governor Chris Christie made a public commitment for to a special $10 million appropriation to the Lead Hazard Abatement Fund. ACNJ also supported legislation to lower the blood lead test level that requires public health departments to inform parents and proactively search for the source of the lead and require abatement to the current CDC recommendation of 5 micrograms/deciliter rather than the older recommendation of 10. The governor recently announced that the Department of Health will follow the CDC guidelines, that there will be a new public awareness campaign, and an enhanced campaign to remediate lead poisoning in housing. In addition, the state will require all older schools to their water and will issue regulations for posting testing results and notifying parents.

For years, New Jersey was nearly last in the nation for its low student participation in the federally-funded school breakfast program. In 2011, Advocates for Children of New Jersey (ACNJ) published its first school breakfast report that included district-level data for all school districts required to serve breakfast. Using that data and organizing a coalition of education and anti-hunger organizations, ACNJ and its partners developed a statewide communications and community-level campaign to expand children’s access to school breakfast, school district by school district. By persuading school districts to serve breakfast “after the bell,” rather than before school when most students had not yet arrived, the campaign was able to boost participation in the school breakfast program from 2010 to 2014 by 55 percent, or 75,000 more students each school day, moving New Jersey from 46th in the nation to 28th. Since school meals are funded with federal dollars, this effort didn’t cost the state anything but rather brought more dollars into school districts to feed hungry students.

The Children’s Agenda (Rochester, NY) championed local adoption of the Nurse-Family Partnership program, which now has the capacity to annually serve 425 local first-time, low-income mothers and their infants. Thanks to The Children’s Agenda’s work, costs for the Nurse-Family Partnership will become reimbursable through Medicaid redesign, allowing it to scale-up to fully meet the local need (1,000 families per year) as well as expanding to a nine-county region. So far, estimates based on rigorous research show that in Rochester the Nurse-Family Partnership has resulted in three fewer child deaths, 69 fewer preterm births, 75 fewer expectant mothers with pregnancy complications, 110 fewer instances of unplanned repeat pregnancies, 140 fewer instances of child abuse and neglect, 160 fewer children who will develop language delays or need remedial help in school, and 170 fewer children who will develop behavioral or mental health problems.

NC Child produces an annual state-level report that compiles the latest child health and wellness data into a convenient document that uncovers emerging trends, enhances discussions about the well-being of North Carolina children and youth, and promotes investments that prepare children to lead healthy, productive lives. The NC Child Health Report Card is used by policymakers, practitioners, members of the press, and advocates to elevate child health on the public policy agenda and to highlight the impact of previous state investments on child well-being outcomes. As state-level policy discussions became increasingly polarized in North Carolina, NC Child recognized an opportunity to ignite community-level action to sustain previous improvements in child health while gaining important new ground. In 2012, NC Child introduced county data cards to supplement the annual NC Child Health Report Card. The goal of the county data cards is to replicate the success of the state-level report in communities across North Carolina by illuminating local trends in child health and wellness, identifying opportunities for strategic investments, promoting evidence-based strategies to improve child well-being outcomes, and empowering communities to advocate on behalf of their children and youth. The county data cards provide more than 30 indicators of child health and well-being, many of which are disaggregated by race and ethnicity. Since their inception, the county data cards have been used by local administrators, foundations, and community leaders to develop shared priorities, allocate local resources to support better health, and measure progress in key indicators of child health and wellness. To date, the county data cards have inspired or informed collective action initiatives to address child health and well-being in at least four counties, with far more indicating the data cards help to inform their local activities.

With the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) set to expire in September 2015, Ohio Children’s Alliance began its push for immediate renewal more than a year before the deadline. Congressional inaction would cost Ohio $47 million in federal funds in 2016 alone, and any delay in action could risk coverage for 130,000 children and put healthcare funding into question going into the state budget process. The Voices team worked closely with partners to lobby state lawmakers to keep CHIP in the state budget and members of Congress to reauthorize the program. In November 2014, Voices hosted a briefing on CHIP reauthorization on Capitol Hill, which was attended by fourteen of Ohio’s Congress members. That January, “Ohio’s Healthy Start: Children’s Health Insurance Program,” a policy brief Voices for Ohio’s Children released in coordination with the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families, was highlighted at a local press conference and covered by Ohio’s political news outlets. Voices kept constituents engaged with regular action alerts and updates as well as a CHIP-focused Tweet Chat on Twitter. Voices CEO, Sandy Oxley, continued to meet monthly with federal leaders, including Ohio’s senior U.S. Senator, Sherrod Brown, who championed CHIP in the Senate, and Speaker John Boehner, whose office continued to seek Sandy’s counsel even when she was in recovery after surgery. A two-year extension of CHIP passed both chambers and was signed into law in April 2015 — without detrimental changes or reductions in funding. In accepting Voices’ Health Champion Award a month later, Sen. Sherrod Brown noted Sandy’s diligence and Voices’ efforts, concluding, “Extending CHIP is a victory for families everywhere, it’s a victory for Voices for Ohio’s Children.”

Children First (PA) has worked since its inception to reduce childhood lead poisoning in Philadelphia, its surrounding counties, and state-wide. Because of the work of Children First and its partners, the City:

  • allocated increased resources to wipe out a backlog of houses that had poisoned children and were ordered to be remediated,
  • expanded prenatal home visiting programs designed to help prevent children being exposed to lead by screening the home and educating the parent,
  • established a Lead Court to enforce requirements that property owners remediate lead,
  • had City staff help landlords with the process of applying for federal funds to remediate lead,
  • created a program to temporarily house families in lead-safe homes during the remediation process, and
  • passed a law requiring landlords to test their properties for lead hazards.

Children First and its partners also persuaded the state to require testing of all young children in the state Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and to provide financial incentives for Medicaid and CHIP managed care providers to test all young children.

Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children accomplished significant gains for health care coverage for kids during recent state budget negotiations. In addition to successfully encouraging the legislature to extend the CHIP program for an additional two years, important language was included to implement strategies to enroll eligible children, such as comparing those enrolled in child care under the Child Care and Development Block Grant or in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program to those in CHIP (commonly referred to as express lane eligibility). This has the potential to significantly reduce the number of uninsured children in the state, which currently stands at about 139,000 children – or one in 20 kids. Additional work will continue on driving public policy on developmental screening in the state, including referrals/linkages and data monitoring/collection.

Rhode Island KIDS COUNT identified an easily understandable data point (children entering kindergarten with a history of blood lead levels) in 1995 and have reported on it regularly as an indicator in the annual Rhode Island Kids Count Factbook to draw attention to the problem. Since 1995, the percentage of Rhode Island children with elevated lead levels has dropped significantly. In 1995 71% of children entering kindergarten had a history of elevated blood lead levels; in 2017 that is expected to be 8%. However, the work is not done until lead poisoning is eliminated. The latest data shows that 894 Rhode Island children that will enter kindergarten in the fall of 2017 have elevated lead levels (greater than or equal to 5 ug/dl) and that low income and minority children are more likely to be lead poisoned, primarily due to housing conditions.

Rhode Island KIDS COUNT’s prominently and regularly reporting the data on lead poisoning helped provide momentum for a major community prevention and treatment effort and helped spur a new lead poisoning law. Elements of the Rhode Island approach include:

  • Lead Centers that provide case management and environmental inspections. Case management offers education regarding health, nutrition, and cleaning techniques, ongoing developmental assessment and contact with the child’s health care provider, and referrals for further assistance with education, nutrition, housing, and legal needs.
  • A federal waiver recommended by Rhode Island KIDS COUNT and obtained by Rhode Island allows the Lead Centers to use Medicaid to pay for case services for Medicaid enrolled children with high blood levels. (It also allows Rhode Island to use Medicaid for window replacement in the homes of lead poisoned children enrolled in Rite Care but this provision is rarely used.)
  • A pilot project through which visiting nurses educated pregnant women in Providence about lead poisoning and prenatal care. Eligible pregnant women and their landlords were referred for financial assistance in removing lead hazards before the baby is born.
  • Tenant complaint and notification protections, and public registries of inspected properties or properties with multiple lead poisonings and uncorrected lead hazards.
  • Failure to initiate improvements within required time periods and after notice is a felony where the failure to abate results in an additional lead poisoning.
  • Insurance companies, with certain exceptions, must cover lead paint liability.
  • There is a private right of action for pregnant women and families with children under age 6 to compel compliance with lead hazard mitigation requirements and to obtain attorneys’ fees and court costs.

The Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth (TCCY) has administrative responsibility for a Council on Children’s Mental Health (CCMH) established by the legislature in 2008. CCMH works to design a comprehensive plan for a statewide System of Care (SOC) for children and families that is family-driven, youth-guided, community-based, and culturally and linguistically competent. It is co-chaired by the commissioner of the Department on Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services and the executive director of TCCY. Membership represents a focused, diverse, and integrated community of all Tennessee child-serving agencies, community service providers, advocates, families, and youth. CCMH is a collaborative effort focused on cutting-edge topics in children’s mental health, including statewide trauma initiatives, trauma-­informed care, and education initiatives. CCMH has made major contributions to the state’s success in receiving federal funding for mental health and is an effective collaboration bringing increased attention, dedication, and focus to the improvement of the mental health care of children and families throughout the state.

CHILDREN AT RISK (TX) and its allies in the state spotlighted the importance of school breakfast and improving public policy to increase access for hungry Texas school children in 2013. In Texas, more than 3 million children qualify for a free or reduced school meal. While school lunch participation has held steady for many years, participation in school breakfast consistently lags behind due to barriers such as late bus arrival, short meal serving times, and stigma. Without breakfast, it is difficult for hungry students to be active learners in the classroom. Unfortunately, the message of feeding hungry children did not catch the attention of Texas legislators, so CHILDREN AT RISK decided to frame the conversation differently. The message was reframed to focus on the financial impact an increase in school breakfast participation would have on Texas farmers and the agriculture community, and that the school breakfast program could provide an additional $370 million dollar investment in Texas agriculture. With the reframing of this message, CHILDREN AT RISK and its allies were able to find powerful legislators to back the bill and pass it through both the House and the Senate. The final legislation, Senate Bill 376, was then signed by Governor Perry and became state law in 2013. Now, an additional one million children are able to begin their school day with a nutritious breakfast rather than an empty stomach.

In 2016, Voices for Utah Children persuaded legislators to remove the five-year waiting period for lawfully residing immigrant children to be insured through the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) or Medicaid. Although Hispanic children in Utah are three times more likely to be uninsured than other Utah children, past efforts to eliminate this waiting period had failed. Voices for Utah Children realized, based on advice from the Georgetown Center for Children and Families, that the newly increased federal reimbursement level for CHIP gave them a new opportunity to eliminate the waiting period because it significantly reduced the state’s cost and made the change even more cost-effective. Voices staff worked with key legislative champions and with the Department of Health to craft language in an appropriations bill that directed the Department of Health to eliminate the waiting period. They conducted and shared with legislators research showing that the bill made fiscal sense, which helped move the bill forward. By including the provision in a larger bill, they were able to avoid some of the heated debate over larger issues that had proved problematic in the past. They also led the coalition fighting for the change. Soon lawfully present children can be enrolled in public health insurance right away instead of having to wait for five years.

Although Voices for Virginia’s Children had worked on improving access to mental health care for kids for almost ten years with some success, there were still large systemic problems with the state’s children’s mental health system. With more than 130,000 children and youth in Virginia estimated to have a serious mental health disorder, the system was fragmented, confusing to families, and lacked an adequate array of providers trained to treat children. In 2009, Voices decided to form the Campaign for Children’s Mental Health, a broad-based coalition of partner organizations focusing their education efforts on the general public as well as policymakers. With more than 60 partner organizations and a steering committee of statewide mental health organizations, the Campaign has increased media coverage of children’s mental health issues and cultivated strong legislative champions. Empowering and coaching affected parents to speak up has been a critical element of its success. Results to date include: protection of Virginia’s one remaining state psychiatric hospital for children as the safety net when it was twice slated for closure during the recession, and more than $6.5 million annually in new state general funding allocated exclusively to child psychiatry and crisis response services. (That funding started at $1.5 million annually and has grown every year to its current amount.)

Successes in School Readiness

Partnership members have secured funding for universal pre-k programs and expanded child care subsidies and protected these programs from budget cuts, and have secured home visiting programs that help prepare children for school, to name just a few policy victories that improved children’s school readiness.


VOICES for Alabama’s Children’s work led to nearly $10 million in increased funding for high-quality pre-k in 2014 and 2015.

Connecticut Voices for Children issued legislative mandates for the creation of a state plan to streamline and coordinate early care system so as to improve quality and care access in 2011, and a new state Office for Early Childhood to coordinate the funding streams and policy initiatives in 2013.

On July 1, 2015, Illinois Governor Rauner’s Administration used its emergency rulemaking authority to drastically cut access to the state’s Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP), which helps low-income working parents pay for child care. Voices for Illinois Children joined with other advocates challenging these cuts. Under the new rules, a single mom of one child entering the work force could only access child care assistance in Illinois if she made less than 50% of the federal poverty level, or $664 per month. Before the cuts, a single mom of one child who earned up to 185% of the federal poverty level, or $2,456 per month, had access to child care assistance. As a result of this change, 90% of the families who would have been approved under the previous income guidelines were having their applications denied. Voices’ role included initiating administrative review of the rule changes, submitting formal comments, driving earned media to the issue, developing infographics that received record-breaking attention, and supporting lawmakers as they moved towards an agreement with the administration to restore child care, while its partners conducted other activities including mailers, TV ads, door knocking, and e-actions, as well as their own formal comments and earned media. On November 9, 2015, eligibility was increased to 162% of the federal poverty level with an agreement to return to the pre-cut level of 185% percent once the FY2016 budget passed. Voices hopes this negotiation can serve as the framework for making further progress on the many issues impacting Illinois’ children and families.

Early in the 2015 Kansas legislative session, a legislative committee agreed to eliminate all funding from the Children’s Initiatives Fund (CIF) for Kansas Parents as Teachers – more than $7 million each year. This decision was made without holding a hearing, but because Kansas Action for Children staff were at the committee meeting, they were able to alert partners and activate families and advocates across the state. After strong and swift pushback, the committee reversed this decision. Funding for early education programs from the CIF, including Kansas Parents as Teachers as well as other smart investments like Early Head Start and Child Care Assistance, was maintained. While funding for these programs has not increased in recent years, maintained funding is a victory in such a tight fiscal environment.

In 2014, the Children’s Agenda (Rochester, NY) spearheaded advocacy with business and faith community partners, which led to an increase for local child care assistance of $1.74 million in 2014 and $1.4 million in 2015. This funding increase benefitted up to 200 more children of low-income, working families by increasing their access to high quality early care and education. According to the best evidence, that should mean:

  • 36 fewer children needing special education in their school-age years;
  • 38 fewer teen pregnancies;
  • 40 more local high school graduates;
  • 46 more students enrolled in four-year colleges;
  • Improved health, less criminal activity, and less reliance on welfare programs as adults.

Despite the proven benefits of high-quality pre-kindergarten, only about one in six of Pennsylvania’s three- and four-year-olds has access to publicly funded, high-quality pre-k. Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children (PPC) set out to improve this statistic in part by elevating the public policy discussion about the benefits of high-quality pre-k and the urgent need to increase state investments in this once-in-a-lifetime learning opportunity. In early 2014, PPC joined with nine other organizations to launch a statewide, non-partisan campaign called Pre-K for PA. The campaign’s goal is to ensure that every three- and four-year-old in the commonwealth will have access to high-quality pre-kindergarten by 2018. Because 2014 was a gubernatorial election year, part of the challenge was to make sure pre-k was a prominent campaign topic among the candidates for governor – all ten of them. The campaign prepared data-driven policy briefings about the benefits of high-quality pre-k and the unmet need in Pennsylvania. It began aggressively promoting the issue through one-on-one candidate briefings, editorial board outreach and earned media coverage, and a steady stream of social media. As the campaign evolved, all of the leading candidates began voicing public support for stronger investments in high-quality pre-k. The winning candidate campaigned on a platform of universal pre-k in Pennsylvania because, as he put it, “too much of the battle for educational achievement is lost before our children enter kindergarten.” His first year in office, the new governor proposed increasing state funding for high-quality pre-k to boost the rate of access from one in six children to one in four, with a vow to seek subsequent increases in the years to come.

Rhode Island KIDS COUNT helped develop a mixed delivery state pre-k program that is part of the education funding formula. They also helped to pass an exit bill for a child care assistance program that allows families to stay on it until their incomes exceed 225% of poverty.

In 2014, legislation was introduced to change pre-k in Tennessee from a full-year program to a six – eight week summer program. The Tennessee Commission on Children & Youth (TCCY) developed a Pre-K Matters for Tennessee Children policy brief focused on the positive impact of pre-k. TCCY also worked with other pre-k advocates to maintain the current program and its funding. The budget remained intact and the legislation for the summer program did not pass.

Childhood education research from around the country has shown that investments in high-quality pre-k pay off in significant ways. According to the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Kids Count data, however, the majority of Utah’s three- and four-year-olds are not enrolled in pre-k. Until 2014, in fact, Utah was one of only ten states that provided no state-level funding for high-quality preschool. With her early childhood expertise and experience in finance, Janis Dubno, Voices for Utah Children’s former Director of Early Education Policy, saw an opportunity. To help fund high-quality pre-k in Utah, Janis designed a “sustainable financing model” to illustrate that early childhood education investments could ultimately save money for Utah taxpayers. The model evolved into a results-based financing system that allows private investors to cover the up-front cost of pre-k programming for at-risk three- and four-year-olds in Utah, with the state reimbursing investors for each child who is considered at risk for later special education intervention upon preschool entry, but who ultimately does not require special education services in K-6. Since the pilot program began in 2013, Voices for Utah Children has provided research and analytic support to United Way of Salt Lake in implementing the results-based financing (social impact loan) project. Aptly dubbed “Pay for Success,” the model — now in its 3rd year — is increasing access and enrollment, closing opportunity gaps, and providing the state with the data it needs to support investment in high-quality pre-k.

In June of 2012, the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources announced a series of devastating cuts being planned for the state’s childcare subsidy program. The subsidy program provides valuable support to low-income working families who can’t afford the high cost of childcare. The announced cuts included a freeze on new applications, dramatic increases in co-payments, and, beginning January 1, 2013, the removal of all families between 150% and 185% of the poverty level, kicking 1,400 families out of the program. West Virginia KIDS COUNT worked closely with the state’s childcare community to urge Governor Tomblin to stop the cuts – and their advocacy efforts paid off. Not only did the Governor reverse his decision to freeze new applications but he ultimately decided to keep eligibility at its current levels. He has also pledged to find a way to fund the program appropriately. This was a big victory for working families and every organization working to ensure their well-being.

Successes in School Success

Partnership members have worked to help all children achieve success in school, from preparing school information guides for parents, to ensuring that more children have time to eat breakfast at the start of the school day, to changing the school funding system to fund schools more adequately and equitably, to eliminating discipline policies that disparately affect children of color and keep them out of school.


Children learn best when they are in school. Yet data show that exclusionary discipline practices like school arrests, expulsions, and suspensions occur all too often in Connecticut. In February 2015, Connecticut Voices for Children published a detailed report revealing not only the frequency but also the vast disparities in school disciplinary practices. It found that in 2013, Black students were over six times more likely to be suspended out-of-school, nearly five times more likely to be expelled, and nearly five times more likely to be arrested than their white peers. Moreover, it found that nearly one in ten student arrests were for non-criminal violations of school policy that could be more effectively handled in the classroom. In many cases, behaviors for which students were being arrested, expelled, or suspended could be prevented through earlier intervention and better access to services, or handled more effectively with lower-level school-based sanctions that address the true source of the misbehavior and work to correct it. Connecticut Voices for Children’s research led to a statewide conversation on the use of exclusionary school discipline, and its policy prescriptions led to proposed legislation mandating better school discipline data collection and requiring school districts and local law enforcement agencies to work together to keep kids in class. Connecticut Voices for Children testified at the Capitol, met with legislators, and organized a coalition of juvenile justice advocates in support of the proposed legislation. As a result of Connecticut Voices for Children’s research and advocacy, the legislation gained bipartisan support, passed the Connecticut General Assembly, and was signed into law as Public Act 15-168.

The Maine Children’s Alliance led the coalition that secured legislation that significantly expanded voluntary public preschool in Maine. When implemented, the law will establish high standards and encourage community collaboration for public preschool programs (pre-k). In addition, $4 million in start-up funds from casino revenues will address the primary obstacle to preschool expansion in Maine – first year start-up costs.

For years, New Jersey was nearly last in the nation for its low student participation in the federally-funded school breakfast program. In 2011, Advocates for Children of New Jersey (ACNJ) published its first school breakfast report that included district-level data for all school districts required to serve breakfast. Using that data and organizing a coalition of education and anti-hunger organizations, ACNJ and its partners developed a statewide communications and community-level campaign to expand children’s access to school breakfast, school district by school district. By persuading school districts to serve breakfast “after the bell,” rather than before school when most students had not yet arrived, the campaign was able to boost participation in the school breakfast program from 2010 to 2014 by 55 percent, or 75,000 more students each school day, moving New Jersey from 46th in the nation to 28th. Since school meals are funded with federal dollars, this effort didn’t cost the state anything but rather brought more dollars into school districts to feed hungry students.

In 2014, CHILDREN AT RISK staff researched and published the 2nd edition of Texas School Guide: A Parent’s Roadmap to Success. This publication has filled an important niche in the Dallas and Fort Worth communities, serving as a one-stop-shop for parents wanting to maximize their child’s educational attainment. The guides contain detailed data on campuses in Dallas and Fort Worth, covering key topics ranging from average class sizes to graduation rates. CHILDREN AT RISK strategically distributed over 3,000 guides to parents, community members, schools, non-profit organizations, community health clinics, public officials, school board representatives in both districts, and key distribution partners, such as community centers and libraries. This widespread distribution plan, in addition to targeted distribution to key partners that work with underserved populations, provided school information to many parents who previously lacked access due to socio-economic status or language preference.

Successes in Safety

Partnership members have reduced child fatality rates, improved the identification of abused or neglected children, improved what happens to children in foster care and after they leave it, and reduced the number of children incarcerated.


Connecticut Voices for Children advocated for systems reform for court-involved youth, including adding 16-year-olds (in 2011) and 17-year-olds (in 2012) to the juvenile justice population, and protecting the rights of children in foster care to sibling visitation in 2015.

As a research driven organization, Connecticut Voices for Children begins with the data, looking to impartial and quantifiable evidence to advance policy solutions to help Connecticut children learn, grow, and thrive. It assesses data through multiple lenses, including town, race, gender, and ethnicity, to ensure that it can identify disparities and advocate for equitable opportunity. To connect its research to people, Connecticut Voices for Children builds coalitions with direct service organizations and advocacy groups, empowering individuals to share their narratives along with its research. One example involves outreach to youth in the foster care system: youth who often expressed frustration with policies and services but had few opportunities to promote solutions. To address this gap, Connecticut Voices for Children collaborated with Connecticut’s Department of Children and Families to host Youth Advisory Boards, listening sessions where young people in state care across Connecticut could communicate their concerns and priorities for change. Inspired by these conversations with youth, Connecticut Voices for Children now organizes an annual Youth at the Capitol Day, a forum for youth involved with the foster care system to speak directly to policymakers about their experiences. The themes from Youth at the Capital Day inform its legislative agenda and build bipartisan momentum for legislative change. In December 2014, Connecticut Voices hosted its Fourth Annual Youth at the Capitol Day, focused on the importance of healthy, permanent relationships for foster youth. Connecticut Voices for Children’s partnerships with state legislators, the Department of Children and Families, and youth themselves during the legislative session led to the creation of Public Act 15-199, which includes language to strengthen youth participation in permanency planning and permits youth to identify adults with whom they have strong connections as permanency resources.

Although almost all professionals who interact regularly with children in Kentucky, such as doctors, nurses, and child care staff are required to receive training on child abuse prevention, Kentucky Youth Advocates found that educators, despite being mandated reporters, were not required to receive any training on how to recognize and report child abuse. In 2013 in Kentucky, more than 1,900 children were victims of physical abuse, over 900 children were victims of sexual abuse, and more than 16,000 children were neglected. More than half of Kentucky’s victims are school age (5-17 years old), and teachers may be the only trusted adult in a child’s life. Kentucky Youth Advocates worked with several partners across Kentucky to successfully pass SB 119, sponsored by Senator Julie Raque Adams in 2015. This bill will help educators, who already protect children on a daily basis, be equipped to know how to recognize and report child abuse. Kentucky Youth Advocates is now working on a series of training videos to help schools implement the new requirement.

Communities are stronger and safer when we treat kids like kids and support them in ways that allow all youth to achieve their full potential. Unfortunately, in Nebraska the juvenile justice system was relying too much on measures that pulled kids out of the community and placed an emphasis on punishment, rather than rehabilitation. In 2013, Voices for Children in Nebraska published an Issue Brief on Nebraska’s Youth Rehabilitation and Treatment Centers that showed that these methods did not work and were extremely expensive. Using this information, it worked to help pass LB561, which appropriated $14.5 million to reduce the use of incarceration and detention while preventing unnecessary involvement in the juvenile justice system. Since then, Voices has built on this progress to change how Nebraska handles “status offenses” (actions that would not be considered crimes if the offender were an adult), to further help low-risk youth receive community-based rehabilitative measures that produce better outcomes than out-of-home placement.

In 2003, recognizing that foster children, like all children, need help making the transition from childhood to productive adulthood, Westchester Children’s Association issued a call for new policies and programs to help young people who “age out” of foster care between the ages of 18 and 21. Incorporating most of WCA’s recommendations for change, Westchester County developed a new program, Pathways to Adulthood, to make sure that all teens in foster care are being adequately prepared for independence. WCA co-chairs the Advisory Group for the project with the Westchester County Department of Social Services. In 2007, the Pathways to Adulthood Advisory Group recognizes that many young people leave foster care precipitously at age 18, when they are legally able to do so, often without a good plan for what comes next. In order to entice young people to stay in care long enough to make a plan, and to support the success of that plan, the Pathways to Adulthood Advisory Group recommends that the Department of Social Services set aside funds to award exit grants to young people leaving care who have worked with a social worker to develop a plan for success. Based on advocacy by WCA and its partners, funds are included in the County budget and a process is developed for awarding up to $3,000 to each young person who leaves foster care with a plan for independence. The funds have remained available in the County budget every year. Approximately 35 youth per year are awarded grants for such items as apartment security deposits, vocational training, home furnishings, driving lessons, and more.

Since 1990, the NC Child Fatality Task Force has brought legislators together with health and safety experts to craft policies that save children’s lives, resulting in a 45% decrease in North Carolina’s child fatality rate since the Task Force’s inception. Despite this history of success, a small set of state House members snuck a provision into the state budget bill that would have eliminated the Task Force in 2014. NC Child organized a quick, comprehensive response, mobilizing allies and providing them with data-driven communications materials. They reached out to the press to expose the provision and provided legislators with solid data and talking points. During the floor debate, Republicans and Democrats referenced NC Child materials while speaking in favor of saving the Task Force. Ultimately, the state House voted overwhelmingly to preserve the Child Fatality Task Force.

During the year before the 2015 legislative session, a number of heartbreaking deaths of children in foster care caught the attention of the media and state leaders. Texans Care for Children worked hard to channel that grief and attention in a positive direction to ensure that the state provided greater safety and support for children in foster care. Through a series of legislative hearings, attention to state reports, and news about foster care, it educated legislators and the media about a short list of specific policy challenges in foster care and potential solutions to protect more children in the future. In the end, the Legislature passed its proposal to improve screening and training requirements for foster parents. It also passed its proposal to require a standardized assessment of all children entering foster care to ensure children receive appropriate services and home placements.

Voices for Virginia’s Children secured additional funding to serve more families in home visiting programs. They also caused policy changes to allow more children to stay with relatives (kinship care) rather than enter the foster care system.

Successes in Family Stability and Economic Security

Partnership members have increased family income through expanded state tax credits, increased access to health insurance and child care subsidies, and improved family stability by increasing access to home visiting programs and other efforts that help strengthen families.


Connecticut Voices for Children helped working families keep more of what they earn with their 2011 advocacy for legislation that kept the Earned Income Tax Credit in state’s budget.

At the beginning of the 2016 legislative session, Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy proposed a state budget that cut nearly $500 million per fiscal year in state spending. While spending on the “Children’s Budget” — state government spending that directly benefits young people — makes up only a third of the overall state budget, over half (54%) of the Governor’s proposed cuts came from children’s programs. A constitutional spending cap and Governor Malloy’s pledge to avoid tax increases, made it seem inevitable that Connecticut’s budget would be balanced on the backs of children. Governor Malloy’s budget cuts, if left unchecked, would have undermined essential services and widened existing racial and ethnic disparities in public access to important resources like high-quality early care and education. Connecticut Voices for Children researched the law and recommended the exclusion of unfunded pension liabilities from budget calculations; this simple change opened up enough room to restore almost the entirety of the proposed budget cuts. In addition, Connecticut Voices for Children recommended a series of revenue raising strategies, including adding a new income tax bracket with a higher top tax rate, requiring combined corporate reporting, eliminating outdated tax expenditures, and widening the state sales tax base. Ultimately, Connecticut’s legislature restored funding to essential child and family services, with the state Comptroller and many legislators and proponents crediting Connecticut Voices for Children’s research and advocacy as instrumental to the protection of essential child and family programs across the state. One state legislator noted: “I rely on [Voices] for the kind of information that is absolutely critical for making good fiscal decisions. We are in a time of financial stress. Voices looks at what we have to spend, and gives us the best way to spend it. It is simply in business to help the state do the best it can with what it’s got.”

In 2015, Idaho Voices for Children responded quickly to a handful of Idaho lawmakers who delayed a critical update to Idaho’s child support enforcement law. The update would have brought the state into compliance with the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act. Without compliance, Idaho was poised to lose access to the national tools and administrative funding that it uses to enforce child support orders. It would have become ineligible for millions of associated federal TANF funds, which support early learning, child care assistance, children’s mental health, and other critical programs. The Legislature adjourned without resolving the issue, putting $200 million in annual private child support payments in jeopardy, and Idaho Voices for Children joined together an impromptu coalition of advocates from across the state. They met with the governor’s office and key lawmakers and worked to convey the impact of legislative inaction on Idaho’s children. It gathered data and issued a report showing that one in four, or 112,000, Idaho kids would be affected, including county by county numbers. The opposing legislators portrayed passage of the bill as a violation of the Constitution and state sovereignty. They even touched on fears that “Sharia Law” would encroach on standards of due process. Voices and the coalition explained why these concerns were unfounded and kept the conversation focused on Idaho’s kids. Fortunately, the Legislature overwhelmingly passed the amended child support legislation in a May special session, and families could again count on prompt payments.

Connecting, strengthening, and inspiring state and local child advocates

The Partnership for America’s Children
is a network of nonpartisan child policy advocacy
organizations that represent children and their needs at the local,
state, and national level within and across states.

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