Agenda for Children


Throughout its history, Agenda for Children has actively advocated for improvements in programs and policies that support children and their families at the local, state and federal levels. Agenda has tackled tough (and often unpopular) issues, such as banning corporal punishment in child care centers and schools, supporting the needs of families in the welfare reform process, reforming Louisiana’s juvenile justice system, and advocating for better policies and programs for young children. In addition to its advocacy efforts, Agenda has also directly operated a range of programs to support children, families and child care providers.

1984: Founding

Agenda for Children was founded to create an independent voice for Louisiana’s children. The organization was born out of its founders’ fight to reinstate mandatory licensing of child care in Louisiana, and was founded to work on a diverse set of children’s issues from early care and education to healthcare and child abuse prevention. Judy Watts became the organization’s first President/CEO, a position she would hold until her retirement in 2010.

1986: Case Management

Using funds from the U.S. Department of Labor, Agenda for Children began a Case Management program, which helped families navigate the social service system in New Orleans.  The program also informed Agenda’s advocacy strategy by identifying and documenting gaps in services. 

1987: Project Shield

Project SHIELD, a program to educate professionals, parents and children about child abuse prevention, moved to Agenda for Children.  Project SHIELD reached approximately 95,000 children in the Greater New Orleans area before it was discontinued in 2002.

1989: Child Care Resource & Referral

Agenda for Children opened the first Child Care Resource and Referral (CCR&R) agency in Louisiana, with support from the National Council of Jewish Women and Mervyn’s Department Stores.  The program initially provided parents with referrals to child care programs, and eventually expanded to provide training and on-site coaching and technical assistance to early childhood educators.  Today, Agenda’s CCR&R is funded by the Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services and provides comprehensive services to parents and early childhood educators in 16 parishes in Southeast Louisiana.

1990: Agenda for Children Opens Office to Serve Houma/Thibodaux Region

Agenda for Children opened an office in Thibodaux to provide child care resource and referral services to the Houma/Thibodaux region. In 2011, the Thibodaux office moved to Houma.

1991: Kids Count

Agenda for Children received funding from the Annie E. Casey Foundation to become Louisiana’s KIDS COUNT grantee. Through its KIDS COUNT work, Agenda for Children provides accurate, timely local data on child well-being in each of Louisiana’s 64 parishes. Louisiana KIDS COUNT data is available through annual publications, as well through the online KIDS COUNT Data Center.

1999: Covering Kids and Families

Agenda for Children joined the national Covering Kids initiative, which was initially funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Covering Kids (later Covering Kids and Families) works to ensure that every eligible child gets and maintains enrollment in LaCHIP and Medicaid. Though Agenda for Children is no longer directly involved in CKF, the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals and a network of coalitions throughout the state continue to carry out the work in Louisiana. Louisiana’s efforts to reduce the rate of uninsured children have paid off—Census data shows that just 6% of Louisiana children were uninsured in 2008-2010, which was 2 percentage points lower than the national average of 8%. By comparison, the best available data shows that Louisiana’s rate of uninsured children in 1999 was 6 percentage points higher than the national average.

1999: Children's Services Collaborative

From 1999 until 2004, Agenda for Children housed the Children’s Services Collaborative (CSC), which worked to align and coordinate children’s services in New Orleans and develop programs wherever gaps were identified. The CSC Juvenile Justice Working Group worked actively in the struggle to close the notorious youth prison in Tallulah and pass the Juvenile Justice Reform Act of 2003.

2006: Greater New Orleans Rebuild Child Care Collaborative

In the aftermath of hurricanes Katrina and Rita, Agenda for Children convened the Greater New Orleans Rebuild Child Care Collaborative (GNORCCC). The collaborative provided direct rebuilding assistance to child care centers and worked to rebuild or expand 10 centers.  Key partners in the collaborative included United Way of Southeast Louisiana, the Institute for Mental Hygiene, United Way’s Women’s Leadership Council, and LSU-Ag center.

2008: Mandeville Office Opens

Agenda for Children opened an office in Mandeville to better serve the Northshore community. Currently, five staff members are based out of our Mandeville office and additional support is provided by our business office in New Orleans.

2011: Dr. Anthony Recasner Takes the Helm of Agenda for Children

After Judy Watts retired, Dr. Anthony Recasner became the second CEO to lead Agenda for Children.  Dr. Recasner joined Agenda for Children after spending nearly two decades working to reform public education in New Orleans. Tony is co-founder of FirstLine Schools, a charter school management organization which opened the city’s first charter school (New Orleans Charter Middle School) and now operates five charter schools. Tony’s work has consistently demonstrated how to educate disadvantaged children by challenging and engaging them academically, while effectively addressing their social and emotional needs. Under Dr. Recasner’s leadership, Agenda for Children has begun to expand its work to focus on building stronger connections between early education and K-12 education.

2011: Bridge to Quality

The Bridge to Quality program became part of Agenda for Children.  Bridge to Quality, which was piloted at the Institute for Mental Hygiene, provides intensive coaching, business consulting, training and materials and furnishing to participating child care centers to help them attain four stars in the state’s Quality Start rating system for child care centers. The program has become a cornerstone of Agenda for Children’s efforts to make high-quality early childhood education experiences available to more children in Southeast Louisiana.

2012: Striving Readers

The Striving Readers Comprehensive Literacy Initiative, a partnership with FirstLine Schools, works with parents and teachers to create literacy-rich environments in homes, child care centers and pre-kindergarten classrooms. This work is supported by the Louisiana Department of Education.

2012: New Orleans Zero to Eight Early Learning Workgroup

Agenda for Children launched the New Orleans Zero to Eight Early Learning Workgroup, which will draw upon the expertise of its members to develop and promote best practices in promoting school readiness among young children.  This work is supported by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.

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