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 CDF Policy Team works with Congress and the federal government to advocate for federal policies for policies that improve children’s lives.  We seek to end child poverty and give every child a healthy start, a quality early childhood experience, a level education playing field, and safe families and communities free from violence—with special attention to children involved in the child welfare and juvenile justice systems. Our policy and advocacy work includes raising awareness, gathering and analyzing data, publishing reports and research, highlighting promising practices, seeking legislative and administrative improvements and implementing policies so they truly benefit the most vulnerable children.

CDF Policy Internships are offered in the following areas:

Child Poverty

Child Poverty Interns support CDF’s efforts to end child poverty and ensure all families have resources to nurture their children. Our Child Poverty work includes promoting improvements to policies and programs we know work in order to ensure children’s basic needs are met, to increase employment and make work pay, and to level the playing field for poor children.

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

Child Welfare 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 aligning federal child welfare funding to improve outcomes for vulnerable children, supporting children and relatives in kinship families, and promoting education stability and success for children in foster care.

Gun Violence

Gun Violence Interns support CDF’s efforts to demand elected officials protect children not guns. Our Gun Violence work includes advocating for common sense gun safety and gun violence prevention measures including implementing universal background checks, prohibiting firearm access for high-risk groups, enacting child access prevention laws and requiring child safety features for every gun, banning military-style weapons, and funding gun violence prevention research.

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.


Education Interns support CDF’s efforts to ensure that every child in America attends a school that is warm, welcoming and where learning happens. Our Education work includes promoting equitable school funding, reducing the achievement gap, ending the school-to-prison pipeline and expanding after-school and summer literacy opportunities.

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 and includes ensuring federal resources for youth justice reform; closing youth prisons and investing in restorative, community-based solutions; and ending solitary confinement of children.  


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.

Policy Internship Primary Responsibilities:

  • Identifying and researching initiatives in poverty, health, early childhood development, education, child welfare, gun violence, immigration and youth justice to address the needs of children and families
  • Tracking and analyzing federal and state legislation
  • Monitoring, analyzing, and summarizing policy developments,  the federal budget, research briefs and studies that relate to children, low income families, and other key issue areas
  • Attending hearings and briefings, both on and off Capitol Hill, that are relevant to CDF’s work, and writing succinct summaries to share with the policy team 
  • Contributing to the development of issue briefs, fact sheets, and other materials relevant to our work for publication or the website
  • Rapid response research for internal and external data requests
  • Participating in the educational component of the CDF internship program, including luncheons, seminars, and trips
  • Other duties and projects as assigned

Policy Internship 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 internet 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 policy research, strong excel skills and ideally experience using a statistical software packaged (Stata or SPSS), and experience with federal data sources (census, NCHS, HHS, DOE, etc.)

2019 Intern Reflection

My internship at the Children’s Defense Fund has been rewarding, stimulating, and enjoyable. As a child health policy intern, my work mostly revolved around issues surrounding healthcare and mental health in children. My daily tasks entailed researching the nuances and clauses of the Affordable Care Act, summarizing studies on childhood adversity, and drafting memos on bills and reports regarding issues within Medicaid and CHIP provisions. Although I spent the majority of my 9-5 days in the office, I was given many opportunities to attend Medicaid Coalition meetings, briefings and hearings on the Hill, and special panels or events hosted by organizations such as the National Academy of Sciences or the American Academy of Pediatrics. My work has required me to hone my research skills, as well as practice communication with fellow interns and supervisors. The office environment at CDF has also been quite conducive to collaboration, amply allowing myself and fellow interns to interact with supervisors in a way that is mutually informative and helpful.

As part of the summer intern class, I have also been given the opportunity to attend luncheons with staff members. At these luncheons, we are told what different career paths into the nonprofit sector may look like, and how we can harness our own skills, backgrounds, and educational experiences to forge our own pathways into careers of public interest. I have found these informal meetings to be quite beneficial with regard to providing context and meaning to my short 10 weeks at CDF, as well as instilling within me broader ideas for my postgraduate career.

Kashfia Rahman '22

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.