Group cut ribbon

In 1992, Judy Horgan launched Child Watch of Pittsburgh, a project of The Children’s Home of Pittsburgh, to assess inadequacies in the delivery of social services to children. The committee immediately discovered a desperate need to increase child advocacy efforts.

Child Watch modeled its practices after The Children’s Defense Fund and Marian Wright Edelman. Instead of creating another agency, Child Watch brought existing agencies together to inform the community about issues impacting the most vulnerable children. By convening stakeholders, facilitating discussions, educating the public, and mobilizing decision makers and policy makers, the organization provided an environment for coalition partners to collaboratively address mutual concerns while remaining faithful to their individual missions. Child Watch gave local advocates a unified voice that led to positive changes.

In 2013, Allies for Children was formed, building on the foundation of child advocacy established by Child Watch.

Children playing in wagon

Allegheny County Children’s Fund: Laying the Groundwork

In the summer and fall of 2018, Allies for Children spearheaded a collaborative effort to create an Allegheny County Children’s Fund to support early learning, after school, and nutritious meals. We held dozens of community conversations and on August 7, turned in 63,499 signatures petitioning the Allegheny County Board of Elections to add the Allegheny County Children’s Fund to the November 6, 2018, General Election ballot. The group’s goal was to collect 40,000 signatures, but more than 63,000 neighbors, in all 130 municipalities and all 1,322 voting precincts in our county said ‘yes, we want to have a community-wide conversation about how we fund the programs proven to benefit our kids and our region.’

Though the effort, dubbed “Our kids, our commitment,” fell short in at the polls, nearly 250,000 Allegheny County voters agreed that our children are our future. We are beyond grateful to all the supporters.

This led County Executive Rich Fitzgerald to convene a 26-member working group to look at the creation of a potential children’s fund to provide resources to early childhood learning and out-of-school time programs across Allegheny County.

In October 2019, the Children’s Fund Working Group, co-chaired by Trish Gadson, Ph.D. of Macedonia FACE and Michelle Figlar of The Heinz Endowments, formally presented a Report to the County Executive that proposed a mission and vision for a children’s fund, along with core principles for the endeavor including equity, access, quality, and accountability.

children running with balloons

Department of Children Initiatives: Foundation for Success

The Allegheny County Department of Children Initiatives was formed in 2021, charged with establishing partnerships with internal and external stakeholders to ensure all departmental efforts are responsive to the specific needs of Allegheny County’s children, families, and programs’ needs.

Rebecca “Becky” Mercatoris serves as the first director of the Department of Children Initiatives.