Our children are our future and if we don’t take care of them, then who will take care of the world when we are gone? Children rely on us to care for them, and it has to start somewhere. Whether it is with educating the parents or changing the laws, it is important that the children of today get what they need through the schools, in their homes and in their lives, and this is why Children’s Defense Fund is such an important organization, because they are helping our children thrive.
Children’s Defense Fund
The Children’s Defense Fund is a child advocacy organization that has been in Texas for 15 years, and nationally for more than 40 years. Their goal is to ensure a level playing field for all children. Children’s Defense Fund champions policies and programs that lift children out of poverty; protect them from abuse and neglect; and ensure their access to healthcare, quality education, and moral and spiritual foundation. They provides a strong, effective, and independent voice for all the children who cannot vote, lobby, or speak for themselves. In Texas, Children’s Defense Fund priorities include: child health, child poverty, education, youth leadership development, juvenile justice.
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WyKisha McKinney – Child Health Outreach
Have you ever wondered how the children who can’t afford health insurance get insured? We never thought about it until we met with WyKisha McKinney, who is the Child Health Outreach Program Manager for Children’s Defense Fund. WyKisha has a bubbly can-do attitude with a smile that doesn’t stop. We adored her outgoing attitude and personality immediately. WyKisha’s mission is to find the uninsured children within the school districts and to educate the parents and get the children insured. Even if the parents don’t have health insurance, the children can still qualify for health insurance, and most parents are not even aware of this.
By partnering with the school districts, Children’s Defense Fund has an outreach person that is located within each district and looks at those students that qualify for free lunch. Those are the first parents and caregivers that are approached about health insurance for the kids. The original goal was to enroll 1,000 children within HISD over a 3 year span in a health insurance program, and so far the numbers are up to around 700 and this is the final year that this initiative will be taking place.
WyKisha also provides community outreach, public education and training to community groups, school leaders, and other professionals who serve or come into contact with uninsured children and their families. The goal is to get these children enrolled into CHIP, Children’s Medicaid, and the Affordable Care Act (ACA) Health Insurance Marketplace.
WyKisha is originally from Dallas and became very involved in the Suicide Prevention and Crisis Hotline in 2004 when her brother committed suicide. This was also when she became interested in mental health issues. She is on the board of many organizations and she chairs the Out of the Darkness Walk, which brings attention to suicide prevention due to mental health issues. She has realized that people need to have conversations around mental disorders and it is her goal to bring these things to light.
Kiri Rose Kendall – Youth Development
Kiri Kendall is a stunner in every single way. From her fabulous accent to her gorgeous skin, to her amazing height, to her beauty on the outside and the inside, to her huge smile and her even bigger heart. Kiri has a passion for kids that are at risk and she fits right into her role as Youth Development Associate with Children’s Defense Fund. Kiri finds organizations that have the potential and capacity to operate Children’s Defense Fund summer literacy program, also known as Freedom Schools. She is also responsible for developing a youth leadership program that connects CDF Freedom Schools, Beat the Odds, and Young Adult Leadership Training.
The Freedom Schools program seeks to build strong, literate, and empowered children by providing summer and after-school reading enrichment to kids who might otherwise not have access to books. By partnering with local congregations, schools, colleges and universities, community organizations, and secure juvenile justice facilities the Children’s Defense Fund Freedom Schools program boosts student motivation to read, generates more positive attitudes toward learning, increases self-esteem and connects the needs of children and families to the resources of their communities. The children not only read a book a week, they get to keep the books they have read and build an at home library.
The program that Freedom School implements that Kiri is most involved in is the one that involves the juvenile justice system. Since 2011, Children’s Defense Fund has partnered with the Harris County Juvenile Probation Department to implement the Freedom School model for incarcerated youth in its secured residential and detention facilities. Since the program has been implemented, there was a dramatic decrease in the number of behavioral incidents reported, with more youths enthusiastic about being productive and making positive changes.
Kiri is involved in educating the parents on what to do to continue to foster relationships with kids once that child has been incarcerated. She is especially interested in the dynamic between the parent/child after the child has been imprisoned.
Children’s Defense Fund is the first line of defense for our children that are defenseless and helpless and we thank them and Kiri and WyKisha for all that they are doing for our city.