Advocate for Children: The Children's Defense Fund

Advocate for Children: The Children's Defense Fund
Hillary Clinton: Religion, Social Issues and Reform

Skill: Elementary School
Time Required: Two to three class periods


After graduating from Yale Law School in 1973, Hillary Rodham went to Massachusetts to work with Marian Wright Edelman at the Children's Defense Fund, where she had served as an intern while in law school.  Her internship there both stimulated an interest in children's law, and gave her the experiences that lay the foundation for a lifetime of interest and work on behalf of children and families. 


Students who participate in this activity will have a chance to explore the world of children's poverty, and some of the programs that have attempted to help reduce it.  Students will then have an opportunity to explore information about their own community, comparing it with the national data on the CDF site.  They will also discover the original source of the phrase, "Leave No Child Behind." 

Materials Required:

Access to the Internet. Access to information about local communities.


1.  One of the ways that the Children's Defense Fund galvanizes people to action is the provision of clear statistics on the lives of children in poverty.  Having looked briefly at the CDF website (below), begin the lesson by giving students a few of the statistics found there.

2.  Then, divide the class into five groups, assigning each group the task of compiling both statistical and programmatic information about poor children in five categories:

  • Child Health
  • Child Welfare and Mental Health
  • Early Childhood Development
  • Education and Youth Development
  • Family Income and Jobs

3.  When the groups have completed their research in these five areas, ask them to share what they have learned.  Why do they think Marian Wright Edelman named her organization the Children's Defense Fund?

4.  Then, they should select what they consider to be the most important information and set out to find the same kind of information about poor children in their own community. Much of this data can be found online by looking at poveerty by state and school district. Additional such information can be found on state report card data sheets, also online.

5.  Students should compare local information with the national data on the CDF website, and come to some conclusions about the status of poor children in their localities.

6.  Engage students in a discussion of what steps might be taken to make things better in their own localities.

Extending the Lesson:

This lesson could be extended by inviting students to actually put into practice some of the ideas generated in their discussions of poverty in their communities. 

Sources & Resources:



The Children's Defense Fund

The CDF Mission

Marian Wright Edelman



This lesson was devdeloped by Averil McClelland, Kent State University.