Childrens Advocates for Change

Championing the Well-Being of Illinois’ Children – Working to Meet Their Educational and Developmental Needs

aka Voices for Illinois Children   |   Chicago, IL   |  https://www.childrensadvocates.org

Mission

Children’s Advocates for Change is an independent advocacy organization committed to the well-being of every Illinois child. The organization conceives and champions the policies, programs, legislation and cultural understanding necessary to provide all children with educational success, economic well-being, and safe and loving primary environments.

Ruling year info

1987

President

Dr. Tasha Green Cruzat

Main address

c/o We Work 125 S. Clark Street, 17th Floor

Chicago, IL 60603 USA

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EIN

36-3480909

NTEE code info

Civil Liberties Advocacy (R60)

Family Services (P40)

Research Institutes and/or Public Policy Analysis (I05)

IRS filing requirement

This organization is required to file an IRS Form 990-N.

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Communication

Blog

Programs and results

What we aim to solve

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Our programs

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

What are the organization's current programs, how do they measure success, and who do the programs serve?

Race Equity Analysis

Our organization works to see that every child is afforded every opportunity to succeed in life regardless of that child’s race, ethnicity, or zip code. That means making sure every child has the necessary shelter, medical care, and education and is in a safe and loving environment.

Children’s Advocates for Change advances our mission through:
• raising awareness of the needs facing children and families
• building strong partnerships focused on solutions
• convening stakeholders to explore data, generating public support, and
• working to ensure implementation of effective public policies and programs.

Raising awareness includes using a racial, ethnic and inclusion lens in all our policies, programs, employment practices and operations. It involves using and advocating for disaggregated data that illustrates existing racial and ethnic disparities faced by Illinois children and their families.

Population(s) Served
Ethnic and racial groups
Children and youth
Parents

We examine those public investments the state of Illinois is making in our children and the impact of tax policies on Illinois children and their families. This includes analysis of the state’s proposed and adopted budget, how it has spent federal funds, and development of an “equity budget” to address racial and ethnic disparities. We also examine federal appropriations for services impacting children and families.

Population(s) Served
Children and youth
Foster and adoptive children
Transitioning children
Parents

Too often the voices of youth, especially youth of color, are not present when others make decisions about their well-being and future. However, young people are powerful advocates for changing systems and policies. Our Youth Public Policy Leadership Committee Program brings to the forefront the viewpoints of those directly impacted by the policies we work on throughout the year. We train young people in communication and advocacy skills and provide them the opportunity to make their cases on various issues directly to city and state elected officials.

Population(s) Served
Children and youth
Children and youth

Where we work

Goals & Strategy

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Learn about the organization's key goals, strategies, capabilities, and progress.

Charting impact

Four powerful questions that require reflection about what really matters - results.

In November 2016, Voices for Illinois Children released our “Agenda to Build Better Lives," which lays out Voices' positive vision for how public investments in children, families, and communities are essential to putting Illinois on the right path. Through policy analysis, data collection and dissemination, convening stakeholders, and holding policymakers accountable, Voices seeks to:

• Ensure adequate state revenue to invest in children and their families including support for early childhood education and programs and investments in youth and their communities, informed by the use of racial equity impact assessments which consider the likely equity impacts of proposed policies and funding decisions,
• Improve tax fairness through a non-flat state income tax, a Child Tax Credit, and doubling the state's Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC),
• Strengthen family economic security through paid family and medical leave as well as children's savings accounts, and
• Strengthen educational outcomes by ensuring children gain early math skills and addressing chronic absenteeism.

Driven by our Kids Count data, Fiscal Policy Center expertise, and a proven ability to help shape public policy conversations, Voices uses our unique position to make policy choices clear and, as our name suggests, be a strong voice on behalf of all children and their families in Illinois. Strategies for achieving successes and improving the lives of children include:

Fiscal Policy Analysis: Through our Fiscal Policy Center (FPC), Voices provides timely, credible, and accessible analyses of state budget issues. Reports and analysis are provided to policymakers, advocacy groups, the media, and the broader public. To maximize our impact, staff uses effective communications and outreach strategies to help shape policy debates and make crucial policy choices clear. The FPC is a trusted source for thoughtful, balanced analysis. We represent Illinois as a member of the State Priorities Project, a network of nonprofit organizations in more than 40 states that shares best practices, advocacy strategies, and resources in working towards a more just and equitable America.

Community Engagement: Voices Leadership Committees (VLCs) advance Voices' goals through engaging a network of local committees and hundreds of individuals to educate communities (parents, community leaders and policy-makers) and build broad support for issues and programs that help all Illinois children thrive and succeed. These volunteer-driven committees have built legislator support for early childhood funding, advocated for quality children's health coverage, and developed long-term relationships with legislators around Voices' priorities.

Public Awareness Campaigns: Voices staff identified the lack of adequate coverage in the press about Illinois' ongoing budget crisis and stalemate among elected officials as an opportunity for Voices to bring greater attention to the hurt being felt by families and children. Voices raises public awareness and support for responsible fiscal policies through our involvement with the Responsible Budget Coalition, which maintains an active social media presence, as well as talking directly with reporters and encouraging them to cover this story. Voices more than doubled earned media hits in 2015 over the previous year and cultivated personal relationship with reporters in top tier markets in Illinois. Key strategies consists of providing background data and context and connecting reporters with families and providers who have been harmed by inadequate state investment in early childhood and family economic security.

In 1987, a dedicated group of civic, business, community, academic, and philanthropic leaders established Voices for Illinois Children to develop and promote strategies that would improve conditions for all children throughout Illinois. Over the years, Voices has grown into a powerful and well-respected advocate on behalf of children. We unite community leaders and people who care passionately about children into a statewide network that helps establish new policies and implements innovative programs to improve education, health care, and family economics.

Today, Voices employs a diverse staff of professionals who advance Voices' mission every day. Voices' President, Tasha Green Cruzat, has over 25 years of experience working in the public, private, and non-profit sectors. Immediately prior to joining Voices in March 2016, Tasha served as the Chief of Staff to Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle. Previously Tasha was with the State of Illinois as the Senior Management Advisor to the Governor's Office of Management and Budget and before that as the Chief Operating Officer for Central Management Services, one of the largest state agencies. Ms. Cruzat also has experience leading non-profit organizations. She was the Executive Director of High Jump, a non-profit organization devoted to providing enriched academic opportunities for talented, low-income middle -school students in Chicago.

Voices' program staff includes Mitch Lifson, Senior Policy Analyst with more than 20 years of experience working in state and local governments, including as a policy and legislative adviser for the Illinois Department of Revenue. Leslie Helmcamp is a Policy Analyst focusing on efforts to reduce youth incarceration and advocate for state investments to support youth. Leslie also manages Voices' Illinois Kids Count Program. Prior to joining Voices, Leslie was a policy analyst with the Center for Public Priorities in Austin, Texas where she worked on economic opportunity issues, including improving college access and completion and supporting low-income families to become more financially secure. Madelyn James is Voices' Early Childhood Project Manager and is responsible for building an approach that advocates for supports that benefit the “whole child." Madelyn has developed a wealth of knowledge through years as a direct service provider, Head Start and state preschool teacher, adjunct faculty member with Chicago City Colleges, and consultant and member of local, state, and national early childhood collaborations.

In our nearly 30-year history, Voices has established a long-track record of success in putting policies in place that build better lives for all children in Illinois. Our accomplishments include, but are not limited to, leading efforts toward the creation of:

• Healthy Families Illinois – home visiting program to help new families learn how to have healthy relationships with their children.
• KidCare – health insurance program for children from low-income families. Family Care followed later, which expanded health insurance coverage to low-income working parents.
• Illinois Earned Income Tax Credit – a refundable tax credit that benefits low-income workers and their families. Voices was a leader in making the tax credit permanent and helped prevent threats to the popular and effective benefit for working families.
• Preschool for All – universal quality preschool to all 3- and 4-year-olds.
• Childcare Subsidies – when the Governor cut eligibility for state subsidies to childcare for low-income working parents from those earning 185% of the poverty level ($44,955 annual income for a family of four) to 50% of the poverty level ($12,150 annual income for a family of four), blocking access to childcare assistance for about 90% of previously eligible families, Voices fought back. Eligibility was restored to 162% of poverty ($39,366 annual income for a family of four) with a promise to go back to 185% once a full state budget is enacted.

The State of Illinois is in fiscal crisis. The continued deadlock over passing a full-year budget have meant hardship for families and non-profit organizations. Critical programs to children's development, including after-school, home visiting, bilingual education, teen pregnancy prevention, violence protection for families with young children, youth incarceration reduction, homeless youth, and many other programs and services, have had their state funding cut or completely eliminated, causing harm to an estimated one million Illinois residents.

During this time of discord in Springfield, Voices is a strong proponent of working closely with partners who share our commitment to improving the quality of life for children and families throughout the state. Through these partnerships and Voices' leadership, we are working to achieve new victories for Illinois' children's and families, including enacting policies such as paid sick and family leave, expungement of juvenile offenders' records, doubling the state Earned Income Tax Credit, and creating a state Child Tax Credit. Approving a full-year budget for Illinois is of utmost importance for the state and its residents' future success, and Voices will advocate for a budget that increases revenue instead more cuts to vital services. As Voices celebrates our 30th anniversary in 2017, we will continue to be a leader in laying out a positive vision for how public investments in children, families, and communities are essential to putting Illinois on the right p

Financials

Childrens Advocates for Change
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Operations

The people, governance practices, and partners that make the organization tick.

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Childrens Advocates for Change

Board of directors
as of 05/13/2022
SOURCE: Self-reported by organization
Board chair

Dr. Gwendolyn Oglesby-Odom

Advocate Aurora Health - Trinity Hospital

Term: 2022 -

Patricia Jones Blessman, Ph.D.

Christa Markgraff

Southern Company Gas

Jennifer Jones

JNM Events

Ranoma Burress

Pharm.D.

Teresa Cordova, Ph.D.

University of Illinois Chicago

Tasha Green Cruzat, Ed.D.

President Children's Advocates for Change

Jill Fraggos

Lurie Children's Hospital

Mark Payne

Public Allies

Board leadership practices

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

GuideStar worked with BoardSource, the national leader in nonprofit board leadership and governance, to create this section.

  • Board orientation and education
    Does the board conduct a formal orientation for new board members and require all board members to sign a written agreement regarding their roles, responsibilities, and expectations? Yes
  • CEO oversight
    Has the board conducted a formal, written assessment of the chief executive within the past year ? Yes
  • Ethics and transparency
    Have the board and senior staff reviewed the conflict-of-interest policy and completed and signed disclosure statements in the past year? Yes
  • Board composition
    Does the board ensure an inclusive board member recruitment process that results in diversity of thought and leadership? Yes
  • Board performance
    Has the board conducted a formal, written self-assessment of its performance within the past three years? Yes