Happy Birthday AACF
Happy Birthday AACF! Today, Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families celebrates 35 years of working to improve the lives of Arkansas children and families. We were founded 35 years ago by a group of prominent Arkansans who believed that children needed an “independent force to provide information and education to parents and citizens about our state’s policies toward children and families.” Our original founders included Betty Bumpers, Bettye Caldwell, Hillary Clinton, Mary Sue Jacobs, Pat Lile, Dr. Betty Lowe, Jim Miles, Sharon Pallone, Dorothy Nayles, and Judge Olly Neal. Our mission statement hasn’t changed a lot in 35 years. Today, it is to “ensure that all children and families have the resources and opportunities to lead healthy and productive lives and realize their full potential.”
For 35 years, AACF has provided the leadership, research and advocacy to promote systemic reforms that have improved the lives of Arkansas children, and we have never been afraid to lead the way when the need arose. Over the years, we have worked with our many partners and policymakers to secure major policy changes for children and families, examples of which include overhauls of the child welfare and juvenile justice systems, requiring schools to participate in the school breakfast program for low-income children, the creation of the ARKids First program, the expansion of quality pre-k for at risk 3- and 4-year olds, the raising of the minimum wage for low-income workers, and more fair tax policies for low-income families.
I am honored and humbled to be the agency’s fourth executive director during those 35 years. Our success over the years would not have been possible without the strong leadership provided by the agency’s three prior executive directors: Jo Luck, Don Crary, and Amy Rossi. They, along with committed staff, board members, and partners over the years, have helped make AACF the organization it is today.
As we kick off our 35th year, I believe AACF is well suited to continue its effective advocacy work for Arkansas’s most vulnerable children. We have a great staff (including a satellite office in Northwest Arkansas), a great board, and strong partners. However, we cannot do it alone. In an increasingly tough political and economic environment, we need more advocates for children who will reach out to policymakers and encourage them to do what is right for children and families, including making investments in our children’s future that will help give them the opportunities to succeed. We need you!