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Just as a rope becomes stronger with each new strand, an advocacy network becomes more powerful with each new voice. By recruiting allies and building coalitions, Allies for Children speaks up for Allegheny County’s youngest residents.

Allies for Children serves as a bold voice to positively change policies and systems that impact children and youth across Allegheny County. The organization works to propel children’s needs to the center of critical conversations with policymakers and thought leaders. That’s important, because policy impacts everything from school funding and school meal programs to housing and healthcare. The goal is to get elected leaders to put children first. When they prioritize children, children learn, grow and thrive.

To do this work, Allies for Children builds alliances with other advocates and service providers and integrates research into policy discussions. Currently, Allies for Children concentrates its advocacy efforts on two major policy areas: education and health and experienced victories for children regarding school funding, school breakfast and school crossing guards. Health and education lay the foundation for providing every child the opportunities and assistance necessary to develop into a healthy, educated and engaged member of the community.

Health Policy

In the health policy arena,  Allies for Children currently focuses on food access, nutrition and health insurance.

To build a local alliance and address food access issues facing children and youth, Allies for Children partnered with Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank and school districts throughout Allegheny County. The successful collaboration resulted in a report entitled Breakfast Basics: A Comprehensive Look at School Breakfast Participation in Allegheny County. The report highlights how school policy changes help combat childhood hunger and increase the number of breakfasts schools serve. In 2017, an updated report found that Allegheny County outperformed the state in reaching Governor Wolf’s School Breakfast Goal.

To expand access to affordable health insurance for children and families, Allies for Children worked with the Office of Mayor William Peduto, the Allegheny County Health Department, the Consumer Health Coalition and Enroll America. The group developed a plan called Healthy Together and later received a $200,000 implementation grant from the National League of Cities to connect children to available health care coverage and ensure they receive the basic services they need and deserve. Due to the success of the campaign, Pittsburgh was prominently featured in reports about the national initiative. To continue advocacy efforts around healthcare, Allies for Children developed a Southwestern Pennsylvania plan to support the extension of CHIP funding.

Education Policy

In the education arena, Allies for Children concentrates its policy work around three main efforts: school funding, attendance and out-of-school time programs. Together, these areas assist children in accessing the resources necessary to meet state academic standards and take advantage of academically enriching activities.

Currently, Allies for Children plays a leading role in the Campaign for Fair Education Funding, a statewide non-partisan effort made up of more than 50 organizations. In 2016, the campaign won a major policy victory–the enactment of a Basic Education Funding formula in a legislative year marked by an unprecedented budget stalemate. Prior to the passage of this legislation, Pennsylvania, one of a small number of states without a funding formula, ranked among the nation’s least equitable states for public education funding.

Just as students need financial resources to help them succeed academically, they also need the resources that provide personnel who serve as natural mentors and protectors along routes to and from school. That’s why Allies for Children partnered with the City of Pittsburgh, the United Way of Southwestern Pennsylvania’s Be There campaign, the University of Pittsburgh’s Office of Child Development, The Mentoring Partnership of Southwestern PA and A+ Schools. Allies for Children commissioned an examination into the City of Pittsburgh’s crossing guards,  which resulted in system changes to enhance safety measures and improve relationships between public service officials and children. Additionally, Allies for Children is working to ensure all children and youth in Allegheny County have access to high quality out-of-school time programs that are innovative and affordable.

Our Vision

Each child has the opportunities and assistance necessary to develop into a healthy, educated and contributing member of the community.

Our Mission

Allies for Children builds alliances and serves as a bold voice for policy and practice changes that improve the wellbeing of all children and youth in Allegheny County, especially those with the greatest need.

Our Guiding Principles

Be a voice for children: Make our work putting the needs and interests of children at the center of policy discussions.

Use data and evidence: Ensure that public policy recommendations are based on the best available evidence to strengthen validity.

Work with all stakeholders in a respectful manner: Acknowledge the unique capacity each individual or group brings to the table and listen carefully to understand unique points of view.

Lead only when it is strategic: Follow when others are already effectively advancing the desired policy change.

Operate in a non-partisan manner: All policymakers, regardless of political affiliation, value children and have a role in advancing public policy.

Recognize alliances are about influence: Work in alliance to exercise influence and not dictate.

Work in a collaborative manner: Value those who came before us for their important contributions and join with them to make change.

Build, don’t burn bridges: Today’s opponent may be tomorrow’s ally.

Be passionate but never strident: Relationships are critical to advancing change.

Reach for high goals and take risks, but remain pragmatic: Understand that policy change is a long process with many steps, including setbacks and gains, and unexpected twists along the way.

Be accretive: Add value to the dialogue about children, rather than duplicating the good work of others.