Children at Risk

Children at Risk

Children At Risk is a 501(c)(3) non-profit policy research and advocacy organization in Houston, Texas which focuses on improving children's quality of life.[1] Founded in 1989, its primary areas of focus are poverty, childhood health, public education, and safety issues.[1]


Growing Up

Children At Risk has published a biennial report, Growing Up In Houston: Assessing the Quality of Life of Our Children, since 1994 (currently in its eleventh edition) that tracks 130 (or more) Quality of Life Indicators on children's issues. Its most recent report indicates that 20.8% of the Harris County children live in poverty, 6.5 per 1,000 die before age 1, and 38% drop out of high school.[2] Past statistics have often been sources of alarm,[3] and earned the organization a reputation as "feisty and tenacious"[4] and its data a reputation as "exhaustive."[5] Despite initial criticism of the organization as a source of "emotional outbursts and statistical shell games,"[6] its statistics have been recognized as an important source of information for city and county policy makers, who seek out its biennial reports.[4]

The organization also does external research, for example for the National Center for Children in Poverty.[7] Recently, the organization increased its Public Policy & Law Center staff to increase its legislative advocacy and research efforts.[8]

High School Rankings

Children At Risk is also known for their annual High School rankings, starting in 2006,[9] which grade Houston-area schools on teaching fundamentals, advanced placement courses, dropout prevention, and college preparation.[10] The rankings have sparked discussion among high school administrators and others.[11] Unlike other High School rankings, such as Newsweek's "America's Top 100 High Schools", the organizations rankings focus on a variety of diverse indicators, rather than just AP scores.[12] In 2008, the number one-ranked school was the YES Prep Southeast Campus.[10]


The organization has criticized the Texas Education Agency for underreporting of high school dropouts,[13] and has hosted conferences and focused research on the dropout issue.[14][15] The organization has also been a critic of abstinence-only sex education[16] and the clause of the state's constitution which limits child welfare programs to 1% of the state's annual budget.[17] Children At Risk opposed a version of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act, which they perceived as using an inadequate child population parity formula, and worked with Representative William Reynolds Archer, Jr. to get an addition $100 million added.[18]

In 1998, the organization spearheaded efforts to get state lawmakers and federal officials to examine Harris County's Head Start program, culminating in federal grants to other nonprofit organizations to work cooperatively with its original provider.[19]

Funding and leadership

Past fundraising efforts have included: a Rock for Houston's Youth Concert,[20] an annual Accolades award event,[21] and promotional donations based on the Houston Astros performance.[22]

Its Board of Directors is composed of Houston community and business leaders, lawyers, and physicians.[23][24] Robert Sanborn, Ed.D., a former faculty member at Emory University, the University of Tulsa, and Rice University, is the current President and CEO.[25][1] Founding President and CEO Jim Mickelson was with the organization for ten years, until 1999.[4] Mickelson's departure was marked by a brief period of disagreement within the board over the direction the organization should develop.[26]


The Journal of Applied Research on Children: Informing Policy for Children At Risk is an open-access and peer-reviewed online journal that is uniquely focused on the needs of children through a holistic prism. Focused on interdisciplinary research that is linked to practical, evidenced-based policy solutions for children’s issues, JARC serves to inform legislative and policy decisions, as well as existing and innovative practice models. Furthermore, JARC aims to serve as a resource to child advocates and community stakeholders by providing case studies on how innovative research and data have been used effectively to influence local, state, or national policies. JARC focuses on timely child-related topics including—but not limited to—human trafficking, food insecurity, teen pregnancy, and the quality of public education. The first edition of JARC, launched in September 2010, highlights Latino children’s issues.


  1. ^ a b c Houston Press. 2006, February 23. "Children at Risk." NEWS; Featured Stories.
  2. ^ Houston Chronicle. 2007, February 22. "Raise the alarm; Two surveys point to the abysmal and deteriorating state of American children's well-being." p. B10.
  3. ^ Houston Chronicle. 2004, October 31. "Children at risk ; Statistics on children's well-being in Houston are not all bad, but some numbers sound alarms." p. O2.
  4. ^ a b c Feldman, Claudia. 1999, December 22. "Child advocate is still focused on the cause." Houston Chronicle. p. H1.
  5. ^ Asin, Stephanie. 1998, October 14. "Outlook for county's kids grim, study says." Houston Chronicle. p. A23.
  6. ^ Mickelson, Jim. 1996, December 21. "Viewpoints." Houston Chronicle. p. A25.
  7. ^ Makeig, John. 1996, December 11. "Child poverty rate high; 90,000 Houston kids under 6 poor, study says." Houston Chronicle. p. A29.
  8. ^ Brown, Richard. 2007, July 26. "Nonprofit adds staff." Houston Chronicle. p. B3.
  9. ^ Mellon, Ericka. 2007, April 1. "Group ranks local high schools; Nonprofit says 2 HISD magnets are stellar, but 13 campuses fall in the bottom tier." Houston Chronicle. p. 1.
  10. ^ a b Mellon, Ericka. 2008, March 30. "MAKING THE GRADE; Best, worst area high schools; Area nonprofit ranks YES charter No. 1; HISD has 3 near top, but most at bottom of list." Houston Chronicle. p. B1.
  11. ^ Mellon, Ericka. 2007, May 12. "Pasadena schools get rankings lift." Houston Chronicle. p. B1.
  12. ^ Connelly, Richard. 2006, May 11. "School's Out; Dallas outshines Houston when one magazine rates education." Houston Press. NEWS; Columns.
  13. ^ Mellon, Ericka. 2007, August 9. "Critics dispute TEA's dropout figures; The agency is accused of overcounting the number of high school graduates." p. B1.
  14. ^ Radcliffe, Jennifer. 2007, September 28. "Experts say state must reach out to students; Relationships, not rules, may help curb dropout rate." Houston Chronicle. p. B4.
  15. ^ Martin, Betty L. 2007, September 27. "REACHING OUT TO DROPOUTS; Alief kicks off new outreach project; District starts Extended Hours Program at High School Annex on Cook." Houston Chronicle. p. B1.
  16. ^ Markley, Melanie. 2007, July 25. "Texas tops ranking of teen birth rates; Experts say sex education, culture play a role in the state's statistics." Houston Chronicle. p. B2.
  17. ^ Feldman, Claudia. 1997, May 18. "Poverty's Child." Houston Chronicle. p. L1.
  18. ^ Mickelson, Jim. 1995, June 5. "Asking for a fair share." Houston Chronicle. p. A17.
  19. ^ Hopper, Leigh. 1998, September 26. "Head Start program gets shot in the arm ; 3 separate agencies pledge cooperation." Houston Chronicle. p. A29.
  20. ^ Houston Chronicle. 2007, October 6. "THIS WEEKEND." p. B2.
  21. ^ Houston Chronicle. 2001, October 18. "Advocacy group hands out honors." p. THISWEEK 7.
  22. ^ Business Wire. 2007, May 1. "As Astros Step Up to the Mound, AIG American General Steps Up to the Plate to 'Save' the Day Again; Houston-based life insurance organization renews "Saves for Children" program with Houston Astros, benefiting CHILDREN AT RISK." lexis.
  23. ^ Houston Chronicle. 2006, July 2. "People in Business." p. B4.
  24. ^ Markley, Melanie. 2004, October 29. "County's infant death rate shows rise; Report unable to cite reasons behind the first jump since 1990." Houston Chronicle. p. A1.
  25. ^ Houston Chronicle. 2005, December 11. "People In Business." p. B4.
  26. ^ Connelly, Richard. 2005, October 20. "Doesn't Play Well with Others." Houston Press. NEWS; Columns.

External links

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