Children's Defense Fund

The Children’s Defense Fund’s Leave No Child Behind® mission is to ensure every child a Healthy Start, a Head Start, a Fair Start, a Safe Start and a Moral Start in life and successful passage to adulthood with the help of caring families and communities. CDF provides a strong, effective and independent voice for all the children of America who cannot vote, lobby or speak for themselves. We pay particular attention to the needs of poor children, children of color and those with disabilities. CDF educates the nation about the needs of children and encourages preventive investments before they get sick, drop out of school, get into trouble or suffer family breakdown.

The Children’s Defense Fund is seeking Policy Interns for Summer 2019. Policy Interns at the Children’s Defense Fund track legislation and policy proposals, attend briefings and hearings, conduct research, analyze data and summarize new reports to help advance a comprehensive legislative agenda to level the playing field for all children in America.

CDF Policy Internships are offered in the following areas:

Child Health

Child Health Interns support CDF’s efforts to ensure all children have access to affordable, comprehensive health coverage that is easy to get and to keep. Our Child Health work includes policy analysis, legislative and administrative advocacy, research and coalition building around implementation of the Affordable Care Act, Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), the federal budget, and other elements of maternal and child health policy.

Child Welfare and Mental Health

Child Welfare and Mental Health Interns support CDF’s efforts to ensure all children a safe start in a permanent nurturing family and community with access to services that help strengthen families and avoid crises. Our Child Welfare work focuses on improving policies and programs that serve or advocate for children who have been abused or neglected, or are at risk of abuse and neglect; are in families challenged by substance abuse, mental health problems and domestic violence; are being raised by grandparents or other relatives; have serious emotional problems and need mental health services, and/or are at risk of coming to the attention of the child welfare system.

Early Childhood

Early Childhood Interns support CDF’s efforts to promote high quality early childhood experiences for all children. Our Early Childhood work involves spearheading a national campaign to promote access to free full-day kindergarten and expanding funding for programs serving low income children from birth to age five.

Youth Justice

Youth Justice Interns support CDF’s efforts to ensure that fewer children encounter the juvenile justice and adult criminal justice systems and that those who do receive the help they need to thrive. Our Youth Justice work aims to address the holistic needs of children and youth (1) at the front end (prevention and diversion), (2) during time spent in the juvenile justice or adult criminal justice systems, and (3) the back end (upon release and reentry into the community). Our Youth Justice work includes advocacy, coalition building, policy analysis, and research.


Research Interns support CDF’s efforts to provide and publish timely, high quality data on children’s outcomes and opportunities to inform public debate and uplift children’s needs. Our Research work involves analyzing data, preparing fact sheets, issue briefs, and reports, and conducting rapid response research for internal and external data requests. Research Interns work across all of CDF’s policy areas. This opportunity is ideal for applicants with a quantitative background.

Primary Responsibilities

  • Identifying and researching initiatives in child health, child welfare, early childhood, education, youth justice, child poverty and gun violence to address the needs of children and families
  • Monitoring, analyzing and summarizing legislation, research briefs and studies related to children and families
  • Writing succinct summaries to share with the Policy team
  • Attending hearings and briefings, both on and off Capitol Hill, relevant to CDF’s work
  • Contributing to the development of issue briefs, fact sheets, and other materials for publication
  • Conducting rapid response research for internal and external data requests
  • Other duties and projects as assigned

Preferred Qualifications

  • Ability to work effectively and calmly in a fast-paced, high-pressure environment with daily deadlines
  • Strong organizational and analytical skills
  • Ability to organize facts and present issues in a clear, concise, and logical manner, both orally and in writing
  • Strong qualitative and quantitative research skills
  • Self-starter who is comfortable working independently
  • Demonstrated interest in learning about policies that affect children and low-income families
  • Commitment to social advocacy and CDF’s mission to be a voice for all children in America
  • For those interested in supporting our research work, additional qualifications include: strong quantitative skills, experience using a statistical software package (Stata or SPSS), and familiarity with federal data sources (Census, NCHS, HHS, DOE, etc.) For more information, please visit 

2018 Intern Reflection

My time at the Children's Defense Fund has been incredibly informative and exciting. On a given day, I might be tracking and summarizing a new poverty bill in the House, attending a conference on the undercount of young children in the 2020 census, joining a phone call on the separation of children and families at the border, going to a Senate hearing on Pay for Success implementation, or researching foster care prevention programs in New York City. I love the variety of work I've had and topics I've been exposed to, as well as the ability to break up the 9-5 desk work with luncheons, meetings, and conversations both in CDF and around D.C. CDF hosts "Brownbag Lunches" just for interns during which staff, including our president, Marian Wright Edelman, answer our questions and tell us about their work and career path. The intern class is about 15 or 20 people, and we've all gotten close, hanging out in and out of work. As a policy intern, I spend much of my time writing fact sheets or summaries of important issues or bills, as well as memos to supervisors. I've gotten to help with some of the work going into CDF's signature report on ending child poverty and I've been exposed to fascinating and important research on child health, juvenile justice, child welfare, immigration, financial barriers to equality, youth homelessness, teen pregnancy, and more.

Rachel Tropp '20

Washington, D.C.