American Youth Policy Forum Joins Children’s Defense Fund

At this critical time when the nation’s youth are becoming more politically engaged and vocal, American Youth Policy Forum’s board of directors has reached a strategic agreement to merge its resources into the Children’s Defense Fund to consolidate efforts to amplify young voices. Both national non-profits agree they can better leverage their impact by joining together to benefit the nation’s young people.

CDF celebrates AYPF’s 30-year history of successfully educating, informing, and engaging thousands of policymakers at the national, state, and local levels to help them implement more equitable youth-centered policies. AYPF programs fit neatly into CDF, known for its policy advocacy, youth organizing, and leadership development, and its CDF Freedom Schools program, a literacy and leadership development program that reaches more than 16,000 Scholars nationwide.

Dr. Stephanie McGencey, AYPF executive director, says, “We’re proud of our record of educating and informing policymakers and policy influencers and this has led to better decisions on behalf of youth marginalized by systemic inequities. Yet too often our work in youth policy has been siloed. This exciting new home for the work means AYPF, powered by CDF, will have the ability to focus on the full scope of youth issues, from birth to young adulthood. We really see this as a family joining together!”

Rev. Dr. Starsky Wilson, CDF president and CEO, says, “We’ve long been impressed by AYPF’s efforts to organize youth to tap into their own power and make change. CDF hopes to sustain and deepen AYPF’s relationships with partners for positive youth development, in spaces like the national Opportunity Youth Forum and leadership in the National Alliance of Youth and Young Adult Advocates. We’re excited to incorporate AYPF’s considerable resources with our existing programs to build community, so all young people grow up with dignity, hope, and joy.

Lorelle Espinosa, AYPF board chair says, “Today’s youth policy challenges are different than when we started three decades ago, necessitating new approaches and partners. I speak for our entire board when I say how excited we are to partner with CDF and build upon the incredible legacy of AYPF’s founder Samuel Halperin, including continuing to honor him through the Samuel Halperin Lecture and Youth Public Service Award.”

“Coming together is great for our movement advocating and serving children, and it makes good business sense,” says CDF board treasurer Marty Rodgers. “The intentional and thoughtful integration of AYPF assets will strengthen CDF and propel our common mission forward in ways neither organization could have done as effectively or as quickly on their own.”

AYPF’s Legacy

AYPF will no longer operate as a standalone organization and key AYPF program staff will transition to CDF to assist with AYPF’s programming, leveraging its content and assets (over 136 publications and reports), including Capitol Hill forums, discussion group meetings and over 140 study tours to date.

The study tours have connected over 3,000 policymakers and researchers directly to those implementing best practices on the ground, creating common understandings and shared experiences among decision-makers and ensuring that policy debates are grounded in the assets and insights of youth who experience systemic inequities. For instance, a recent school climate event in California challenged participants’ assumptions and understanding and provided concrete examples of research and policy that can be applied to improve a school’s ability to address conflict and other challenges.

AYPF’s youth engagement strategy will also continue, and through the Youth Council, work closely with other CDF staff to advise policymakers on what policies are needed and how to more deeply engage with youth.

Children’s Defense Fund

Children’s Defense Fund envisions a nation where marginalized children flourish, leaders prioritize their well-being, and communities wield the power to ensure they thrive. The only national, multi-issue advocacy organization working at the intersection of child well-being and racial justice, CDF advances the well-being of America’s most diverse generation, the 74 million children and youth under the age of 18, and 30 million young adults under the age of 25. CDF’s grassroots movement in marginalized communities builds power for child-centered public policy, informed by racial equity and the lived experience of children and youth. Its renowned CDF Freedom Schools® are conducted in more than 100 cities and 30 states and territories.


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A Message Regarding COVID-19

The AYPF Board and Staff, to ensure the safety and well-being of our staff, have moved from our Dupont Circle offices and will continue to work remotely, indefinitely. We will continue our efforts to be a trusted resource, and thank you in advance for supporting youth marginalized by systemic inequities. Visit our COVID-19 Response Information Hub for COVID-related resources, organized by youth population and supports for parents.

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Photos Courtesy of Allison Shelley/The Verbatim Agency for American Education:
Images of Teachers and Students in Action

Youth Populations

AYPF focuses on improving policies and practices that impact youth marginalized by systemic inequities, ages 14 – 25. This includes youth who are in school and those who have left school and are not in education, training, or the workforce. To gain a more comprehensive view about the youth at the center of our work, click on a highlighted population.

Policies & Legislation

AYPF analyzes certain federal laws to understand how they affect youth marginalized by systemic inequities and how they enable or constrain states and communities in effectively and equitably serving these youth. As a nonpartisan organization, we do not lobby or take positions on legislation, but rather educate and inform policymakers about opportunities to improve youth policy and practice. Click on an icon to learn more about the policies and legislation at the center of our work. 

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