(Photo by G. Widman for Visit Philadelphia)
In 2013, UNICEF released its ranking of children’s well-being in developed countries, which included factors such as health, housing and education. The U.S. placed 26 out of 29 countries.
Husband-wife duo Bill Clark, former executive director of Philabundance, and child anthropology researcher Cindy Dell Clark looked into this disparity and began building Child’s World America about two years ago. The organization is a self-funded nonprofit seeking to organize the child advocacy community.
CWA seeks to address the disparity between the state of children’s well-being in America compared to the rest of the world by working to unify the child advocacy community. The Clarks believe that the existing community is currently “large but disorganized [and] very fragmented and siloed,” and there is no shared common mission.
“Our approach is not to do the work that other organizations are doing but to be a catalyst to bring the community together,” Bill Clark said.
"Our approach is not to do the work that other organizations are doing but to be a catalyst to bring the community together."
There are currently more than a dozen Philly organizations that are members of CWA including Cradles to Crayons, Philadelphia Reads and Philadelphia Parks Alliance. CWA has been working on building membership and community organizing through “basic community organizing 101,” he said, such as hosting film screenings of the documentary “The Raising of America,” symposiums and other public events to bring child advocates of all backgrounds together.
Another component is establishing a news platform to educate people and to keep information about child-focused legislation and other issues in the public forefront.
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The website posts free content about childhood issues written by advocates, researchers, educators and physicians. The eventual goal is to “create a journalistic core” focused on nonprofits and to hire journalists to cover this national beat, Bill Clark said.
There tends to be less national children’s policy than at local levels, the Clarks said. Oftentimes, legislation is deferred to the states and to local jurisdictions.
Bill Clark said CWA does not have partisan ties and is not a lobbyist organization. For example, CWA does not have a preference for public, private or charter schools — it only posits that children deserve a better education, no matter how it happens.
“One of the issues that can bridge the divide of the political body is [everyone] wants their children to have a better life than they had,” he said. “It’s a unifying element of frustration.”
"A society that doesn’t respond to the call of caring for its children is a society that’s denying part of its humanity."
CWA is also seeking funders who are interested in systemic change, not just supporting individual programs.
There is currently no similar rallying entity for children’s advocacy, like AARP for the retirement community. Voices for America’s Children was a national organization that sought to bring the community together, but it was disbanded in 2013.
“CWA is a very small fish in a very large pond, but we’re the only fish in the pond,” Bill Clark said. “It is important for us to find a service that would be important to the community, but is not provided already.”
Social bonds are also made in the process of organizing around children and everyone benefits, Cindy Dell Clark said.
“Children provide a glue that causes communities to unite,” she said. “[They] are an indicator for how healthy the society is. A society that doesn’t respond to the call of caring for its children is a society that’s denying part of its humanity.”-30-
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