Give Kids Sight Day is on Saturday, October 9.  Find out more here.

Our History


Formerly known as Public Citizens for Children and Youth (PCCY), Children First PA continues the 40+ commitment of advocacy on behalf of children and families in Southeastern PA.

Throughout our history, we’ve testified, regularly issued reports on the state of children in the city and region, organized communities and families to advocate for policies that help, and focused on the needs of children and what must be done to improve their lives.


  • With the strong core belief that our job—as parents, as neighbors, and as a society, is to make sure that every child has access to the fundamental building blocks for success, Philadelphia Citizens for Children and Youth is created. The agency is born out of a “Citizens’ Committee” watchdog group that previously looked at problems affecting services  offered to children and youth in Philadelphia.


  • PCCY brings together citizens from across Philadelphia to take a stand on behalf of children by creating two task forces—one focused on child welfare and the other on education. This lays the groundwork for PCCY’s development and leadership on children’s issues.


  • Philadelphia Mayor Wilson Goode and City Council answer PCCY’s call to combat teen pregnancy and infant mortality by establishing three teen health clinics across Philadelphia to provide comprehensive care to adolescents.
  • PCCY launches a public campaign to increase child enrollment in Medicaid. PCCY staff and volunteers work in schools, helping parents register their children.
  • PCCY launches partnerships with community organizations to help families secure healthcare for their children.
  • PCCY launches a city-wide campaign to focus on improving the lives of homeless children.
  • PCCY begins major campaign initiatives to improve the meals, safety, education and support for children in shelters.


  • PCCY responds to years of state cuts in child welfare programs by issuing reports and organizing a march on Harrisburg, bringing trainloads of people including the Mayor and City Council representatives to focus attention on the needs of children, by filing a lawsuit against the state and by testifying at several hearings. As a result, Pennsylvania establishes a new formula for funding child welfare programs that increases funding from the state.
  • PCCY begins to draw attention to the problem of lead poisoning in the city by issuing reports, persuading? City Council to hold hearings, helping create lead court, and briefing judges on the impact of the problem.


  • PCCY teams with stakeholders across PA to urge lawmakers to pass legislation establishing the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). Not only does the legislation pass, but PA CHIP becomes the model for the Federal government’s CHIP Program, which has been adopted by all fifty states.
  • PCCY works to simplify/streamline the CHIP application process, holds hearings and launches its Child Health Watch Helpline, a hotline to assist parents in obtaining Medicaid and CHIP for their children.
  • PCCY organizes petitions and volunteers and builds publicity to ensure that all 79 public pools in Philadelphia open on time.


  • PCCY rallies 120 local community groups and the School District of Philadelphia to take more than 20,000 people to Washington, D.C. to participate in the Stand for Children march on the Capitol and speak out on behalf of children.


  • PCCY and the Philadelphia Department of Recreation launch the “Summer Playstreets Program, ”  which encourages neighbors to close off their blocks during the daytime in summer to provide safe zones for children to play. PCCY helps organize neighbors who assist with providing free lunches and non-violent games to hundreds of children in the program.
  • PCCY launches a maternal and infant care program to increase support for visits during pregnancy and better follow up with infants after mother and child leave the hospital.
  • PCCY, together with the City, the Mayor, the United Way, the Eagles and the Phillies launches a $120 million fund to benefit the children of Philadelphia ($2 million a year for 20 years from the teams).


  • PCCY launches The Picasso Project, a mini-grant arts program, with support from the Giveback Campaign. Schools from across the city apply for the grants, which are funded through individual donors, corporations and foundations.
  • When the state announces it will refund a portion of personal income tax payments, PCCY launches  the “Give Back the Give Back” campaign to encourage people to donate their refund payments to programs for children.
  • PCCY continues its Courtwatch newsletter which trains citizen volunteers to sit in on Juvenile Court hearings and issue annual reports on juvenile justice in Philadelphia.


  • PCCY launches the “1% More for Kids Campaign” to urge Philadelphia Mayoral candidates to commit an additional 1% of the City’s budget (about $35 million at the time) to programming for children and families. Both Mayoral candidates express support for the idea.


  • PCCY helps create one of the first “peace” public high schools in the country. Parkway Northwest High School for Peace and Social Justice opens and provides problem-solving, conflict resolution and peer mediation programs in addition to more traditional subjects.


  • After reporting on the extensive unmet oral health needs of children in the region, PCCY teams up with area dentists to provide free dental care to hundreds of children through the very first “Give Kids a Smile Day.” PCCY continues to hold this event – which has expanded to become a week of free dental care – on an annual basis.


  • After more than a decade of PCCY advocacy for safe transportation to and from school for Philadelphia children, SEPTA launches the “Student Transportation Pass” which provides free or low-cost transportation for thousands of children across the City.
  • At PCCY’s urging, Philadelphia City Council and the Mayor agree to a ballot referendum to establish the Philadelphia Youth Commission as a city government entity to develop and recommend strategies to improve the lives of Philadelphia’s youth.
  • To reflect its growing work in the counties surrounding Philadelphia, PCCY changes its name to “Public Citizens for Children and Youth.”


  • PCCY teams with Wills Eye Hospital, Thomas Jefferson University, the First Philadelphia Foundation and the School District to provide a day of free vision care for children called “Give Kids Sight Day.” Doctors treat 1,200 children, and  Give Kids Sight Day is now an annual event treating over a 1,000 children each year PCCY advocates to save Philadelphia libraries, many of which are threatened with closure.


  • PCCY’s reports and testimony on the number of children in Philadelphia suffering from lead poisoning leads City Council to pass an ordinance requiring Philadelphia landlords to certify that properties rented to families with children under six are lead-safe.
  • PCCY continually testifies, organizes and advocates for increased support for early childhood programs and public school funding.


  • PCCY mobilizes hundreds of students, teachers and education advocates for rallies in Philadelphia and Harrisburg calling on the City and State to provide additional resources for schools. The District rehires hundreds of laid off teachers to open schools, albeit with only bare-bones resources.
  • PCCY issues a report and testifies on 111 barriers to enrollment in Philadelphia charter schools. The district uses PCCY’s research as a guide in their charter renewal process, and, as a result, the barriers are removed, leveling the playing field for all children in the School District.


  • PCCY releases the “Bottom Line is Children” reports to document that child poverty, hunger and barriers to good health and good schools are not just limited to Philadelphia. PCCY finds that nearly 30% of the region’s poorest children and 45% of students struggling to read or do math at grade level reside in the suburbs.
  • PCCY documents that children with behavioral health problems wait on average nearly a month for treatment after an initial call requesting services from the City. The City’s Department of Behavioral Health adopts nearly all of PCCY’s recommendations to reduced wait times for children in need of care.
  • PCCY helps launch the Pre-K for PA campaign to make high-quality pre-k available to every 3- and 4-year old child in Pennsylvania. Described by state leaders as one of the most effective statewide advocacy efforts in decades, the campaign lays the groundwork for a $100 million increase in state funds for Pre-K during its first three years.
  • PCCY helps launch a statewide school funding campaign that brings together business, labor, parent, religious and child advocacy leaders to push for equitable funding for public schools. PCCY mobilizes grassroots and grasstops leaders in Southeastern PA by organizing 20 rallies, delivering 4,000 letters to legislators and recruiting nearly 100 constituents to tell their legislators that school funding is a priority.
  • PCCY designs and leads the first-ever Pennsylvania School Breakfast Challenge, a statewide competition to encourage schools to improve their breakfast programs. Over 9,300 more students start their day by eating breakfast at school as the result of this initiative.
  • PCCY persuades the state to require CHIP providers to pay for one pair of replacement eyeglasses annually by organizing 497 parents and health care advocates to send letters requesting the change. Prior to the change, if a child lost or broke her glasses, it was left to the individual insurance companies to decide whether they would cover a replacement pair.


  • Responding to the fact that more than 50% of Philadelphia school children enter 4th grade unable to read on grade level, PCCY leads a groundbreaking effort to convene? organize? Read by 4th, a six-year collective impact strategy. The campaign has since leveraged $30.4 million in private funding and redirected millions more in public funds to after school programs and summer camps that promote early literacy.
  • PCCY’s groundbreaking research reveals that a shocking 85% of parents of undocumented children delay or forgo medical care for their children because they don’t have health insurance. This finding motivates PCCY to launch the Dream Care Coalition to change state policy that makes 24,000 undocumented children ineligible to enroll in public health insurance.  The coalition, which subsequently grows to over 75 health care and social justice organizations, educates state leaders about the importance of covering all kids.
  • PCCY sparks a new and creative dialogue about school funding by commissioning “School Play,” an original theatrical production based on 4,000 letters from students and 100 interviews about the state of Pennsylvania schools. The show completes a 13-city tour reaching over 1,000 parents and community members, many of whom write letters and postcards to their legislators demanding increased funding for public schools.
  • PCCY’s Children’s Pledge, endorsed by 29 leading child-serving organizations in Philadelphia, is signed by every major candidate for Mayor. The pledge commits these candidates to direct more city funding to schools, universal pre-k and upgrades to libraries and recreation centers.


  • PCCY is front and center as Philadelphia makes history as the first major U.S. city to enact a soda tax, building support for 6,500 new free pre-k seats, community schools, and major new investments in parks, libraries, and recreation centers.  PCCY organizes a vocal coalition of pre-k providers, labor, education advocates and community groups and its social media campaign supporting the soda tax generates 175,000 views.
  • PCCY wins a major victory when the state legislature adopts a new basic education funding formula that adjusts for factors like poverty and community wealth. PCCY shares its expertise with decision-makers and brings 480 local advocates to Harrisburg to deliver a strong message that schools need fair funding now.
  • PCCY releases new research on the status of children in Philadelphia, Bucks, Chester, Delaware and Montgomery Counties that documents that despite the economic recovery, every school district in each of the counties has more low-income children than at the depth of the last recession. PCCY shares the results at 10 public forums attended by over 500 citizens


  • PCCY persuades Mayor Jim Kenney to create the Philadelphia Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Advisory Group and, as a member of the group, pushes for strong new recommendations to protect kids from exposure to lead. PCCY We follow up by launching a new #LeadFreePhilly coalition to build broad-based support for new measures to protect kids from deteriorating lead paint in their homes.
  • PCCY launches a new research and planning process to develop a strategy to increase access to high-quality infant/toddler care for low-income families that will make it possible to have a well-trained infant care workforce, stable and sufficient payment for care, and highly engaged parents.
  • US House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, Governor Tom Wolf, Mayor Jim Kenney, former Lt. Governor James Cawley and incoming Congressman Dwight Evans attend PCCY’s historic roundtable on Pre-K to advance the message that with sufficient and smart alignment of federal, state and local investments in pre-K, every child can start school ready to learn.
  • PCCY hosts a first-of-its-kind Minecraft gaming and STEM event for kids, the Block By Block Party! Upwards of 1,500 parents and children, scores of volunteers and representatives from child-focused organizations gather for a fundraising extravaganza at the University of the Sciences in Philadelphia to support PCCY’s work and fund a grant, modeled after the Picasso Project grants, for hi-tech learning in public schools.


  • The Picasso Project turns 15 years old. This award-winning arts education initiative celebrates providing grants for 311 arts and community partners to lead one-of-a-kind projects in the visual and performing arts in 101 different Philadelphia public schools, inspiring over 44,000 students.
  • Bringing together city and state officials, child welfare experts, and advocacy organizations, PCCY pushes for desperately needed reforms to Philadelphia’s juvenile residential facility placement policies?? to reduce the city’s reliance on such facilities, end abuse, increase oversight, and improve quality and outcomes to give children living in these facilities the best chance at success.
  • PCCY publishes the well-received report, Uncharted Territory: Implication of Rising Charter Enrollment in the Southeastern Pennsylvania Suburbs, showing that while charter school enrollment and costs have grown in the suburbs, their academic achievement and fiscal outlook remains stagnant.
  • PCCY holds Philadelphia’s first childhood lead poisoning summit as part of its campaign to enact a more effective lead law.
  • PCCY holds its second Minecraft and STEM event–another smash hit with kids and families. The event thrills guests with Minecraft building challenges, a STEM fair with over 30 organizations, interactive exhibits and presentations, coding workshops, special guest Tracey Baptiste, and so much more!


  • PCCY continues to drive the Lead Free Philly Coalition’s efforts to successfully enact Philadelphia’s new and improved lead law, touted as the nation’s most protective.
  • PCCY stuns Southeastern PA with a new series of reports that show the increasing costs of raising children are pushing families underwater, even if they make $75,000 a year. Recommendations include state funding increases for quality childcare and pre-K.
  • Some of the region’s top business leaders join forces with PCCY to warn legislators of the economic consequences of continued underfunding of public schools. At the release of The Game Plan, CEOs describe the undue burden on businesses who are unable to find qualified workers among the Pennsylvania’s graduates.
  • After PCCY shows how the dramatic inequities in state funding force districts to hike property taxes, which depresses property values, Realtors in the region join PCCY in the fight to end chronic underfunding of the public education system.
  • PCCY serves its 10,000th child during its ninth annual Give Kids Sight Day, the annual day of free vision care for uninsured and underinsured children!
  • During its Give Kids a Smile event, PCCY’s week of free dental care, PCCY celebrates the 5,000th child served over 16 years of service!
  • The Picasso Project holds arts an education symposium with keynote speaker Sean Lane, Senior Consultant for the Kennedy Center for Performing Arts, who hails PCCY’s new school-based grants approach (as opposed to Picasso’s traditional classroom-based grants).