History

The Beginning

Connecticut Voices for Children was incorporated in October of 1995 by four incredible women — Shelley Geballe, Janice Gruendel, Nancy Lustman, and Judy Solomon. All were working full-time in the model of citizen advocacy. All shared a dream that Connecticut could do better for its children. Called initially, “Citizens for Connecticut’s Children and Youth,” the organization had no staff nor office, but it did have a bold vision.

In 1998, the organization changed its name to “Connecticut Voices for Children” and moved to what would be its permanent home on 33 Whitney Avenue in New Haven, Connecticut. Since then, it has produced hundreds of reports and advocated on behalf of all the state’s children.

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1995

Started planning to put bold vision and big ideas into action through conversations around an old dining room table and on second-hand sofas with a computer box as a work table. Organization incorporated as “Citizens for Connecticut’s Children and Youth” in October.

1996

Launched ConneCT ’96, under the leadership of (now Congressman) John Larson, recruiting 4,000 Connecticut volunteers to help wire Connecticut’s public schools and libraries for Internet access over an eight month period. Launched first website, CTKidslink, with the help of a grant from Graustein Memorial Fund, the first foundation to support our work. Helped found Camp Totokett, a summer camp run primarily by volunteers for children living in families with HIVAIDS. Prepared series of reports exploring implications of state’s transition to managed care in Medicaid, and its plans to “reform” welfare.

1997

Began work in state fiscal analysis with publication of a 100 page report, The Connecticut State Budget: Not a Mater of Wealth but of Will, which analyzed revenue and spending trends, critiqued some recent budget decisions and presented options for better choices. Partnered with 40 different organizations to display children’s art work in the corridor connecting the Legislative Office Building and the State Capitol.

1998

Changed organization’s name to “Connecticut Voices for Children.” Sent out first addition of E-Notes, Connecticut Voices’ electronic newsletter. Launched Connecticut’s Promise: First for Kids, a campaign to increase the attention paid to children’s issues in Connecticut. Successfully lobbied for stricter regulation of pesticide applications in schools and daycare centers and for greater infusion of technology in public schools.

1999

Gave Connecticut Voices’ First for Kids awards for the first time. Released a Special Report on Technology and K-12 Education. Began work on the Connecticut Parent Tech Academy and convened the CT Girls & Technology Network to increase the interest and competence of girls in technology (an initiative later moved to the Connecticut Women’s Education and Legal Fund).

2000

Formally partnered with EARN (the Economic Analysis and Research Network) to publish our now annual State of Working Connecticut for the first time. Began work in early care and education, including creating and staffing the Early Care and Education Alliance. Appointed to Governor’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Mental Health; helped develop Commission’s plan.

2001

Expanded work in early care and education and, in coalition, advocated for the expansion of Care4Kids. Co-led and became fiscal sponsor for One CT (formerly the Campaign to End Poverty and Build Economic Security). Co-founded Connecticut Juvenile Justice Alliance.

2002

Held first State Tax and Budget Forum, a now perennial event that provides an in-depth look at the budget and emerging fiscal issues, which was recognized by Voices for America’s Children as a model and was replicated in other states. Selected to join the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities’ State Priorities Partnership (formerly the State Fiscal Analysis Initiative Network). Began our Associate Policy Fellows program and partnered with Professor Jay Pottenger to establish an innovated legislative clinic at Yale Law School with Connecticut Voices as the client. Worked in coalition for the successful expansion of Care4Kids.

2003

Expanded health policy work and assumed management of the Covering Connecticut’s Kids and Families initiative to expand Medicaid enrollment. Published Connecticut’s Corporation Business Tax: It’s Time for Repair as well as Early Childhood Matters, a series of reports on early care and education.

2004

Became one of ten state partners in the Pew Charitable Trust’s Fostering Results Initiative to reform federal financing of child welfare services. Created and distributed, for the first time, Legislative Briefing Book and Candidate Briefing Book. Developed and released now annual HUSKY Eligibility Manual. Served on Advisory Group of federal Court Monitor in foster care class action case Advisory Council to Child Advocate. Released Immigration in Connecticut, a summary of Census data and projections.

2005

Held first ‘Legislative Breakfast’ to introduce Voices’ work to newly-elected legislators. With Partnership for Strong Communities, began the Inventive Ideas speaker series at The Lyceum, with the initial presentation by David Shipler, Pulitzer-Prize winning author of The Working Poor.  With American Council on Adoptable Children, held Forum on Promoting Permanent Families. Became site for Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative, an effort to improve life outcomes for youth aging out of foster care.

2006

Held 5th annual Budget Forum with presentations by International Editor of Fortune Magazine, Yale University’s Jacob Jacker, the Chief Counsel of the Minority Office of the U.S. House Budget Committee, and OPM Secretary Robert Genuario. Published a first-in-the-nation report on trends in health care for children born to mothers on Medicaid, based on linked HUSKY enrollment records, Department of Public Health birth records, and HUSKY health care encounter records. Worked with Columbia University’s National Center on Children in Poverty to update Family Resource simulator; provided data and research to inform effort to adopt state EITC; participated in Connecticut Economic Resource Council workgroup to produce Benchmarking Connecticut 2006.

2007

Successfully advocated for changes in DCF policy about furnishings for foster youth in transition and initiated a contract with DSS to provide technical assistance to subcontracts awarded contracts to conduct HUSKY outreach. Efforts in the legislative session culminated in the creation of the Juvenile Jurisdiction Planning and Implementation Committee (JJPIC).

2008

Jamey Bell becomes the Executive Director.

2009

Worked in coalition to prevent deep state budget buts as well as advocated for the institution of a progressive income tax and the closing of corporate loopholes and scaling back of film tax credits.

2010

Held first “Youth at the Capitol Day,” which highlighted young people in state care. Worked in coalition to prevent the further delay of the suspension reform law and a law that created stability for foster youth, which helped the state be more competitive for the Race to the Top funds.

2011

Worked in coalition to enact a state EITC.

2012

Launched new website that included a blog. Worked in coalition to initiate planning process to create a coordinated system of early care and reduce barriers to kinship care.

2013

Ellen Shemitz becomes the Executive Director.

2014

Worked in coalition to enact the establishment of the Office of Early Childhood, expansion of School Readiness, creation of Smart Start, and increase of Care4Kids (for the first time since 2002). Successfully advocated for the inclusion of funding for HUSKY performance monitoring in the budget. Successfully advocated for the disclosure of information by DCF to help the Judicial Branch track juvenile offender recidivism and the services that the Birth-to-Three program provides. In coalition, successfully advocated for the funding of a tax incidence report to be conducted by DRS.

2015

In coalition, successfully advocated for the collection and reporting on the number of children who are eligible for “free and reduced price lunch” and are considered English Language Learners subject to exclusionary discipline practices in school. In coalition, successfully advocated for BOEs to enter into MOUs with police when employing School Resource Officers, building upon past legislative successes on limiting police in schools.

2016

Successfully advocated for a balanced budget to protect services for children and families.

2017

In coalition, successfully advocated for an increase in Care4Kids. Joined the Connecticut DUE Justice Coalition to support the advancement of a $15 minimum wage and paid family medical leave. Became the backbone organization for the Connecticut College & Career Readiness Alliance (CCCRA).

2018

In coalition, helped restoration of HUSKY parent eligibility, expansion of oral health access for children, and preservation of education funding as well as institution of bump stocks ban, advance notice for placement changes in foster care, and legislative analysis of the racial impact of proposed bills.

2019

In partnership with the Connecticut DUE Justice Coalition, helped enact $15 minimum wage and paid family medical leave, which was one of the most expansive programs in the country.  In partnership with the JJA, enacted “An Act Concerning Children in Care Bill of Rights.”

Emily Byrne becomes the Executive Director. Launched new website. Released State of Working Connecticut with a new frame focused on growing an inclusive middle class. Released Lack of State Funding Raises Risk of an Inaccurate 2020 Census Count to highlight the need for Census planning and funding for education and outreach. Successfully advocated for census implementation funding.

2020

Launched new strategic aim toward economic justice with a focus on family economic security, fiscal and economics, and emerging issues. Released several crisis response reports and blog posts to help families navigate the pandemic and help policymakers with potential solutions for an equitable recovery. Worked with communities to build a fiscal coalition in service of a restructured tax system that works for everyone. Successfully transitioned the CCCRA to the CSDE.

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