WHO WE ARE
Alabama Children First is a non-profit, non-partisan diverse group of statewide leaders who serve as the driving force to shape public policy and enhance the quality of life for the children and families of Alabama. The organization is a combination of two entities, the Children First Alliance of Alabama and Children First Foundation. Both are non-profits that work to improve the overall well-being of Alabama’s children through Advocacy, with policymakers and political leaders; Awareness, to bring children's needs and issues to the attention of Alabama's policymakers, political leaders and citizens, and to promote the universally accepted concept of prevention; and Accountability, to serve as a watchdog over children's programs and services and over policymakers on children's issues.
The Foundation primarily does lobbying work for children and the Alliance performs non-lobbying duties of the organization.
Our primary focus is and always has been providing for children at the statehouse what all other special interests have: a lobbyist that speaks for them in an environment where they have no voice.
It is so important that Children First remain in the halls of Alabama’s statehouse so we can educate and remind lawmakers that as they make decisions regarding funding and other matters that it directly impacts real children and families.
How did the organization start?
It was started in 1995 when a group of juvenile judges came together and realized that there were many good programs and services for children in the state but no mechanism through which to fund them. So they decided to form a non-profit whose sole purpose was to lobby for funding for children’s services and to also propose and monitor legislation that would affect children.
What has been our biggest accomplishment?
The establishment of the Children First Trust Fund. We along with a bi-partisan group of legislators in 2000 wrote the legislation that created this fund dedicated solely to children’s services. It is not tax dollars and comes from the national tobacco settlement. Each year about half the funds Alabama receives (around $50 million dollars) goes to twelve state agencies that serve children. For more accomplishments, please visit the Accomplishments page.
Does Alabama Children First receive any of those dollars?
Absolutely not. We are simply a watchdog over the funds as they navigate the legislative process. Each year these dollars have to be appropriated and we insure that lawmakers correctly follow the statute that established the fund. That statute lays out the percentage each agency gets of the overall fund, tells them what kind of programs it can be used for and each year they have to report exactly how many children and families were served by those dollars. No other pot of money in Alabama is held so accountable.
So if Children First gets no funding from the state or federal government, how do we run our organization?
We receive donations from very generous individuals and corporations who feel that children should indeed be a top priority for lawmakers. We could not continue our work without them and we remind them that their philanthropy has literally helped 100's of thousands of children through the years. For more information on how to donate and donation options please visit our Donations Page.
What are some examples of programs the Children First Trust Fund helps to fund?
It provides therapeutic foster care for children, mental health and substance abuse counseling, pays for all the Juvenile Probation Officers in the state (except for Jefferson county), provides diversion services for juveniles who have gotten into trouble but have not committed major crimes, coordinates services for children who are involved in multiple state agencies, etc.
Have there ever been any attempts to take money from the Children First Trust Fund?
Yes, in the lean years for the General Fund budget this money has been enticing to the lawmakers who have had the difficult task of trying to balance our state budgets. In the 2013 legislative session, $22 million dollars was supposed to come to the fund via an arbitration settlement with the tobacco companies but because of our underfunded General Fund budget that money was swept away from children and used to fund state government. However, the Children First Trust Fund itself was kept intact and still received its usual appropriation of around $40 million dollars.
What else does Children First do?
We work with state agencies who serve children and assist them in their efforts. Children First also sits on multiple state committees working to better the lives of Alabama's children. Some of those are the #IamMedicaid coalition, the Alabama Healthy Change coalition, the Healthy General Fund Partnership, the Department of Human Resources Quality Assurance Committee, the Juvenile Justice Task Force and many others.