Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families was founded in 1977 by a group of prominent Arkansans who believed that children needed an "independent force to provide information and education to parents and citizens about our state's policies toward children and families."
For more than 30 years, AACF has provided leadership, research and advocacy to promote wide-ranging reforms that have improved the lives of Arkansas children, and we have never been afraid to lead the way when the need arose. Our work includes:
Protecting Children. Through the years, AACF has played a major role in challenging Arkansas's juvenile justice and child welfare systems to perform better. In 1983, our research into juvenile court hearings led to a major overhaul of the state's juvenile justice system. Today we are part of several coalitions working on long-range reforms in both systems.
Improving Children's Health. We led the effort to create ARKids First, which provides children's health insurance to working families. Since 1997, the rate of uninsured children in Arkansas has fallen from 21 percent to 9 percent. Now we're driving the state to cross the finish line to covering all kids by enrolling all eligible children and extending more options to families who can't afford private insurance.
Fighting for Early Education and Out-of-School Opportunities. We have been a leader in the fight to make quality preschool available to at-risk 3- and 4-year-olds in the state. Beginning in 2003, AACF and others convinced the legislature to expand annual funding for pre-k by $100 million. As a result, the state can serve every at-risk 3- and 4-year-old. Now we're working expanding pre-k to more low-income children and we're leading a coalition fighting for high-quality afterschool and summer programs for children of all ages throughout the state.
Promoting Economic Security. AACF is a champion for the economic well-being of Arkansas families. We have led efforts to make our tax and budget system more balanced, including recent victories of exempting most low-income families from the state income tax and closing down predatory payday lenders. Now we're working on securing a state earned income tax credit to help balance our regressive tax system.
AACF will continue being a voice for Arkansas kids when it comes to these issues and others. Only when improvements are made in these areas can Arkansas's children truly realize their full potential. And until that day arrives, AACF will continue fighting on their behalf.