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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, career and technical education, school transportation, child nutrition and lead safety. 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, lead safety, 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. Allies for Children also represents the Pittsburgh region by serving on the statewide school breakfast task force.

To connect local and statewide efforts, Allies for Children was identified by its partner, Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children, to lead the nutrition component of a statewide grant from Pritzker Family Foundation around building a public policy agenda for children prenatal through age three. As a part of this three-year grant awarded to the state of Pennsylvania, Allies for Children is leading partners in efforts to modernize and rejuvenate the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). Allies for Children has been a catalyst between statewide and local support for improving this vital program.

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 that supported the extension of CHIP funding. Allies for Children continue to support and monitor children’s health insurance programs.

To direct attention to the importance of lead safety for children, at the local level, Allies for Children is working in partnership with Women for a Healthy Environment, Conservation Consultants Inc, the Health Department, and others, including municipal leaders, to reduce harmful lead exposure from paint and other household sources. 

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 PA Schools Work Campaign, a statewide non-partisan effort representing teachers and other educators; urban, suburban and rural communities; and parents and other community members working together to advocate for PA public schools, their students and the communities they serve.

Just as important as financial resources for students, are resources to help students get to and from school. Allies for Children leads a coalition of local organizations seeking to find a more effective method for transporting students to nonpublic and charter schools, something which most districts and parents want to accomplish as well. The coalition is working to bring together approximately local school districts to implement shared routing in order to make school transportation more effective and efficient for all students.

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.