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The Karabelle Pizzigati Initiative in Advocacy for Children, Youth and Families

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The Karabelle Pizzigati Initiative in Advocacy for Children Youth and Families builds a pipeline of informed, effective advocates to ensure all children are healthy, safe, learning and joyful.

Unfortunately, in the United States today, that is not the case for millions of young people:

• A little more than 20 percent of children in the U.S. live in poverty

• Only 1 in 6 eligible children receive child care assistance and 1 in 5 families with children who are eligible receive housing assistance.


More than 12 million children in America live in food insecure homes.

The late Karabelle Pizzigati spent her career striving to change that reality by empowering champions for children with the policy skills to make a lasting impact.

The University of Maryland established the Pizzigati Initiative in her honor, to expand the ranks of informed, skilled advocates dedicated to promoting the well-being of children, youth and families. Involving academics and advocates from across the state, this landmark effort features a robust agenda in teaching, professional development and applied research:   

Pizzigati Institute Prepares 2019 Cohort

The two-day training equipped professionals from across the region to advocate for children, youth and families.

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In collaboration with the School of Public Health, we are preparing future advocacy leaders who will work to end inequities for children, youth and families. Students have access to expert faculty from across the University, national and state advocates. Students are prepared to work or intern in nonprofits or government agencies, fully equipped with the practical knowledge to engage effectively in the public policy processes that shape our children’s future.

The Karabelle Pizzigati Initiative in Advocacy for Children Youth and Families produces research to support advocates in the field and resources for faculty.

Taxing Sugary Beverages to Expand Prekindergarten: The Advocacy Lessons of Philadelphia and Santa Fe
This case study examines efforts by two localities to raise revenue to expand high-quality prekindergarten programs, including considerations about different policy landscapes, political leadership, message framing and advocacy capacity.
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Funding Our Future: Generating State and Local Tax Revenue for Quality Early Care and Education
This report is part of a long-term effort to ensure: 1) equitable access to high-quality early care and education for children 0-5 and their families; and 2) parity for the workforce for whom standards are rising but compensation falls woefully short of that of similar public school educators and other professionals.
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Funding and policy decisions, are often made at the federal level, affecting mission-driven social services programs, from Medicaid to Head Start to SNAP. To ensure these decisions meet the needs of the nation’s children, youth and families, social service professionals must have a seat at the table. The advocacy training equips professionals in social service agencies and organizations to harness their rich expertise and experiences to engage in policy advocacy to improve the conditions that leave so many children and families on the margins.

What participants learn: 
Nationally recognized advocates lead workshops in:

  • Navigating federal policy-making and funding processes
  • Engaging in current policy debates and trends
  • Working across issue silos to advocate for the “whole child, whole family”
  • Creating and delivering effective messages for policymakers and the public
  • Connecting to a broader network of advocates

Who should apply:
Individuals working in social service agencies and organizations focused health and mental health, hunger and nutrition, early care and learning, and child welfare with attention to low-income families, immigrant families, and children of color should apply. Applicants must work in Maryland, Virginia, the District of Columbia, Delaware, or Pennsylvania. We strongly encourage applicants from diverse racial, ethnic, generational, gender, geographic and socioeconomic backgrounds.

Please check back for information on future programs.


Advocacy Training Testimonials

"The Karabelle Pizzigati Advocacy Institute fortified my confidence as an advocate and gave me the opportunity to learn from seasoned advocates in the field. After the pre-institute trainings and a weekend in Maryland, I felt I had a more complete knowledge of the legislative process and a personal connection with national advocacy groups we take the lead from. Carrying this confidence and new knowledge into my work has made me a more strategic, informed advocate and I look forward to keeping up with the KPI cohort!"

"I was somewhat skeptical about the Advocacy Training Institute - not everyone works in the same issue areas that I do. However, on day one of the training, I realized that I was going to learn how to break down silos by connecting education policy with my housing and quality of life advocacy. In addition, I sharpened my advocacy skills and learned new ones. If you are having doubts about participating, I strongly recommend you give it a try—you will not regret it."

"The Karabelle Pizzigati Advocacy Institute provided a tremendous breadth and depth of information about how to be an effective advocate. Hearing from and drawing on the experiences of so many seasoned veterans who have been active in federal and state advocacy for decades left me feeling empowered and inspired. The wealth of information shared both before and during the institute equipped me with new tools for my advocacy toolbox and I left with a deeper appreciation for the power of cross-sector advocacy efforts."

Related Publications

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