Our Mission

The Children’s Defense Fund Leave No Child Behind® mission is to ensure every child a Healthy Start, a Head Start, a Fair Start, a Safe Start and a Moral Start in life and successful passage to adulthood with the help of caring families and communities.

CDF provides a strong, effective and independent voice for all the children of America who cannot vote, lobby or speak for themselves. We pay particular attention to the needs of poor children, children of color and those with disabilities. CDF educates the nation about the needs of children and encourages preventive investments before they get sick, drop out of school, get into trouble or suffer family breakdown.

About Children's Defense Fund-Minnesota

The Children's Defense Fund began in 1973. Children's Defense Fund-Minnesota, founded in 1985, is a state partner of the national organization with a unique focus on the needs of Minnesota’s children and families. CDF-MN is the only policy organization in Minnesota to focus solely on the needs of children. To achieve its goals, CDF-MN advocates at the local, state and federal levels on behalf of children, and conducts research, outreach and youth development initiatives. 

CDF is a private, nonprofit organization supported by individual donations, foundation, corporate and government grants.

National Board of Directors

Lan Bentsen, Co-Chair
Shape Tomorrow
Houston, TX
Carol Oughton Biondi
Board Member, California
State Advisory Committee
on Juvenile Justice &
Delinquency Prevention/
Board Member, ARC
(Anti-Recidivism Coalition
Los Angeles), CA
Angela Glover Blackwell, Co-Chair
Founder and CEO
Oakland, CA
Laphonza Butler
Los Angeles, CA
Deborah S. Cogut
Co-Founder and Vice Chair
The Polyphony Foundation
Greenwich, CT
Malaak Compton-Rock
Founder and Director
The Angelrock Project
New York, NY
George Gresham
Marian Wright Edelman
Children's Defense Fund
Washington, DC
DD Eisenberg
Child Advocate
Coral Gables, FL
George Gresham
1199 SEIU
Bronx, NY
Clay Grubb
Grubb Properties, Inc.
Charlotte, NC
Ruth-Ann Huvane
Child Advocate
Los Angeles, CA
Deborah Jewell-Sherman
Urban Superintendents Program
and Professor of Practice,
Harvard Graduate School
of Education, MA
Katie McGrath
Child Advocate
Los Angeles, CA

Ivanna Omeechevarria
Child Advocate
Alexandria, VA

Wendy Puriefoy
Child Advocate
Boston, MA
Jurnee Smollett
Martin Rodgers
Managing Director
Washington, DC Metro
Office and Executive
Director of Accenture’s
Nonprofit Group
Jurnee Smollett-Bell
Los Angeles, CA
Bryan Stevenson, Esq.
Founder and Executive Director
Equal Justice Initiative
Montgomery, AL
Ali Wentworth
New York, NY
Reese Witherspoon
Los Angeles, CA

Former CDF Board Members and Emeriti

Kirbyjon Caldwell Lucy Hackney Dennis Rivera
Geoffrey Canada,
Chair, 2008 - 2014
Howard Haworth Johnathan Rodgers
Lisle Carter, Jr.
Dorothy Height
Donna E. Shalala,
Chair, 1992 – 1993
Laura Chasin
David Hornbeck,
Chair, 1994 – 2005
Barbara Shaw
Hillary Rodham Clinton,
Chair 1986 – 1992
The Reverend William Howard J. Michael Solar
Maureen Cogan James Joseph,
Chair, 1993 – 1994
Susan Thomases
Leonard Coleman, Jr. Deborah Leff Thomas Troyer
Leslie Cornfeld, Esq. Marilyn Levitt Jason Tyler
Leslee Dart William Lynch, Jr.
Robert Vagt,
Chair, 2005 – 2008
John Deardourff
Charles Merrill, Jr. Suzanne Weil
James Forbes, Jr. Heidi Miller Abigail Wexner
James Forman, Jr. Eileen Norton Deborah Wright
Henry Louis Gates, Jr. Leonard Riggio Pat Fallon
Laura Wasserman Winifred Green
Minnesota Advisory Board Members

Maria Christu
General Counsel
Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota

Ghita Worcester
Senior Vice President, Public Affairs & Marketing

Jana Johnson
Senior Vice President, Operations
Medical Health Plan

Joe Lally
Vice President, Strategic Planning
Delta Dental of MN

Steve Piekarski
Chief Program Officer
The Arc Greater Twin Cities

Maureen Seiwert
Executive Director, Early Childhood Education
Minneapolis Public Schools 

Mike Severson, MD, Chair
Pediatric Hospitalist
Brainerd Medical Center 
Former Chair
Minnesota Chapter, American Academy of Pediatrics 

Mohammad El-Sawaf
Business Insurance Consultant
Associated Financial Group

Julianna Simon
Strategic Planning Director

Dr. Artika R. Tyner, Ed.D., M.P.P., J.D.
Community Justice Project: Clinical Faculty; Director of Diversity
University of St. Thomas School of Law
Legal Services Clinic


Leadership & Staff

Executive Team

Bharti Wahi
Executive Director
(651) 855-1171


Jessica Anderson
Legislative Affairs and Communications Director
(651) 855-1188

Elaine Cunningham
Bridge to Benefits Director
(651) 855-1176

Kristen Fabin
Youth Programs Assistant
(651) 855-1181


Nicole Hernandez
Youth Development Director
(651) 855-1174

Stephanie Hogenson
Research and Policy Director
(651) 855-1175

Yvonne Lerew
Development Director
(651) 855-1179


Alisha Porter
Finance and Operations Director
(651) 855-1173

Nation Wright
21st Century Program Coordinator
(651) 855-1182

Daniel Yang
Senior Organizer
(651) 855-1187

Join Our Team

Jobs at Children's Defense Fund

Employees of the Children's Defense Fund are dedicated to its mission to ensure every child a Healthy Start, a Head Start, a Fair Start, a Safe Start, and a Moral Start in life and successful passage to adulthood with the help of caring families and communities. The work is meaningful and the people are great and your contributions will continue to help us to achieve our mission. CDF offers a comprehensive package of health and wellness benefits to employees and their families to ensure personal and financial health and well-being, as well as to provide some protection from significant financial harm due to prolonged injury, illness or death. In addition to the health and wellness benefits we also offer employees a discount on personal computer purchases through the Dell Employee Purchase Program. We strive to provide all employees a variety of benefits that are meaningful to them.

No positions currently available at our Minnesota office.

Learn more about positions currently available at our national office.

Internships at Children's Defense Fund

About 70 undergraduate, graduate and recent graduates intern in CDF's national and state offices each year. While a few of the internships give preference to certain majors everyone with a strong interest in child advocacy is encouraged to apply. CDF interns gain knowledge, skills, and experience to become child advocates and public policy leaders.

No positions currently available at our Minnesota office.

Learn more about internships currently available at our national office.