Make A Difference

Visiting any of the websites below and learning more about these organizations can help promote youth and child wellbeing, while working to eradicate discrimination and inequality!

Cooperation for a Non-Violent Future, Inc. (CNF), a 501(c)(3) Non-Profit Organization

"CNF serves Trenton, NJ and the surrounding communities, doing mediation and conflict resolution throughout the states. CNF provides services and donations to low-income communities. We also house THE MALLOY PROJECT, which spreads the inspirational story of African-American watercolor artist and civil rights leader Tom Malloy to children, communities, and institutions across the nation." Charisa A. Smith, Esq., President. P.O. Box 5111, Trenton, NJ 08638. (609) 896-3710. Dr. Risa Cardwell Smith, President. Executive Committee. Visit the CNF tab at the top of this website for more information.

Advocates for Children of NY, Inc. (AFC)

AFC promotes access to the best education New York can provide for all students, especially students of color and students from low-income backgrounds. We use uniquely integrated strategies to advance systemic reform, empower families and communities, and advocate for the educational rights of individual students. AFC has 11 distinct projects, which you can learn more about. One project is the Juvenile Justice Educational Advocacy Project. AFC's Juvenile Justice Education Advocacy Project (JJEAP) provides court-involved youth and their families with advocacy, information, and referrals to help resolve their school difficulties and secure the educational resources to which they are entitled. Most of the youth are referred by probation officers, judges, or other juvenile justice service providers who identify an education issue that needs a specialist. AFC focuses on identifying youth whose school-related difficulties are a primary trigger for behavioral difficulties or court-involvement and then works to achieve successful educational outcomes. In addition, AFC harnesses the information learned through individual case advocacy to work for systemic change through coalition building and impact litigation. Charisa Kiyô Smith is a Staff Attorney in the Probation Initiative of the JJEAP.

Children's Studies Program and Center at Brooklyn College, City University of New York (CUNY)

Children, in their overall dependency upon adults, have no way of representing themselves.
Children are not only minors, but they constitute, in fact, a social minority in our societies. Children's Studies aims at representing children and their interests through synthesizing knowledge, research, and insights gained from different disciplines and in this manner helping to give children a voice. The work of the Brooklyn College Children's Studies Program and Center addresses these issues and works on behalf of children and youth. It is also for this reason that a human rights perspective articulated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) and the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989) is applied, with its enlarged understanding of children and its evolving international jurisprudence providing the overarching framework for Children's Studies. Charisa Kiyô Smith is an Adjunct Assistant Professor in the Children's Studies Program. She teaches a course called "Child Abuse and Neglect." Charisa helps engaged students to enable youth empowerment and positive youth development, among other principles, as she believes that youth have unique assets and the self-determination to change their own, and the world's, circumstances.

The Village Zendo

The Village Zendo, Dotoku-ji, or True Expression Temple, "is a community of people who come together to practice in the Soto Zen [Buddhist] tradition. We do zazen (sitting meditation), chanting services, retreats, workshops, and study groups. Participation is open to all. We welcome practitioners and students of various traditions to join us at whatever level of commitment they wish." (This website owner, Charisa Kiyô Smith, is a student of The Village Zendo and Roshi Pat Enkyo O'Hara).

The W. Haywood Burns Institute for Juvenile Justice Fairness and Equity (BI), and The Community Justice Network for Youth (CJNY)

"The W. Haywood Burns Institute (BI) is a San Francisco-based national nonprofit organization.
Our mission: To protect and improve the lives of youth of color and poor children and the well-being of their communities by ensuring fairness and equity throughout all public and private youth serving systems. . .the Community Justice Network for Youth (CJNY). . .build[s] the capacity of local organizations to improve and strengthen their programs and organizations and to engage in policy work." This website owner, Charisa Kiyô Smith, Esq., was formerly an independent consultant for CJNY as Coordinator of the NY Task Force on Racial Disparities in the Juvenile Justice System.

Community Connections for Youth (CC-FY) and The Miriam Network

"Community Connections for Youth aims to empower indigenous neighborhood organizations to operate effective community-based alternative-to-incarceration programs for youth, thereby reducing the socially and economically harmful effects of incarcerating young people, and returning ownership of such programs to the communities in which these young people live. . .The Miriam Network is a coalition of faith-based organizations working to restore the care of court-involved youth to members of their own communities. Miriam is the sister of Moses who interceded for her brother when he was discovered by Pharoah’s daughter in the Nile. As a result of Miriam’s advocacy, Moses was returned to his own other who nursed him and cared for him, with resources provided by Pharaoh’s household. . .The Miriam Network keeps member organizations abreast of juvenile justice policy and practice that they may effectively advocate both for individual young people and for systemic change." This website owner, Charisa Smith, is affiliated with The Miriam Network.

Justice 4 Families

Justice for Families (J4) is a new national support, advocacy and organizing initiative of families of court involved and incarcerated youth that works to challenge the community disinvestment, zero tolerance school policies, and punitive laws that lead to the disparate lockup of youth of color. J4 organizes nearly 2,000 families from across the country to keep children in school and out of the justice system, while contesting policies that reinforce the permanent exclusion of incarcerated youth. Recognizing that families want help but also that bureaucratic and heavy-handed interventions are part of the problem, J4 trains families to access critical support services AND to become advocates for systemic solutions. J4 seeks to: 1)Reduce barriers to family support and advocacy; 2)Redirect the pipeline from school-to-prison to school-to-opportunity; and
3)Reinvest dollars wasted on ineffective and harmful juvenile justice policies in systems of support for youth and families (i.e. “justice reinvestment”). Charisa Kiyô Smith is an affiliated partner with Justice 4 Families.

Strategies for Youth

Strategies for Youth Strategies for Youth is dedicated to improving the interactions between police and youth by increasing the approach, options, and responses of police to youth. Through training that integrates developmental and psychiatric practices and cutting edge research, and developing leadership in police departments, Strategies for Youth aims to reframe what is too often an adversarial approach to police/youth relations. This website owner, Charisa Kiyô Smith, is a strong supporter of Strategies for Youth.

The Child Welfare Organizing Project (CWOP)

The Child Welfare Organizing Project (CWOP) is a parent / professional partnership dedicated to public child welfare reform in New York City through increased, meaningful parent involvement in service and policy planning, founded in 1994. Today, parents who have had direct, personal experience with the child welfare system * Have formed an active Parent Advisory Work Group to the New York City Administration for Children’s Services (ACS); * Work as peer advocates in over twenty foster care, preventive, and legal services organizations; * Guest lecture at virtually every area school of law and social work, and develop training curricula for the public and voluntary sector child welfare workforce; * Have created and successfully delivered seven annual cycles of a peer-led Parent Leadership Curriculum. Over 70% of those who had a child in foster care when they entered the Curriculum had reunited their family by the time they graduated six to eight months later; * Helped instigate and inform a NYC Criminal Justice Coordinator’s Request for Proposals for interdisciplinary providers of legal services that seems destined to revolutionize the nature and quality of representation and due process available to low-income parents responding to child maltreatment allegations in Family Court; * Write for and publish their own newsletter and magazine, and work actively with the media; and * Are working with the ACS Division of Research and Evaluation to create family interview instruments for use in performance evaluation of ACS Preventive Service and Foster Care contractors. CWOP parent advocates and staff speak to Charisa Kiyô Smith's "Child Abuse and Neglect" class at Brooklyn College, CUNY, every semester.

Dignity in Schools Campaign-New York (DSC-NY)

DSC-NY is a coalition of youth, parents, advocates and educators calling for positive, school-wide approaches to discipline that improve the school environment, reduce conflict, and increase learning. We work to reform the NYC Discipline Code to reduce suspensions and implement positive approaches to discipline, like Restorative Practices and Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS). Members of DSC-NY include Advocates for Children, DRUM, Urban Youth Collaborative, Youth Ministries for Peace and Justice, Teachers Unite and Children's Defense Fund New York. DSC-NY holds workshops and teach-ins, organizes testimony before the Department of Education, and develops policy recommendations. On the DSC-NY website, you can watch video from the Oct. 14 Teach-in on Solutions for Positive School Discipline and sign the Call to Action. The Director of the JJEAP from Advocates for Children, the organization where Charisa Kiyô Smith currently practices law, is on the Steering Committee of DSC-NY.

Children's Defense Fund (CDF) - NY

"In 1992, the Children's Defense Fund established an office in New York City, a city where 30% of children live in poverty and children account for 43% of the homeless population. We serve as a resource and partner for children, families and organizations throughout the tri-state area and are recognized as an authority in the endeavor to protect children and strengthen families. Our unique approach to improving conditions for children by combining research, public education, policy development, community organizing and advocacy activities, has made us an innovative and tireless leader for New York's children."

The Institute for Juvenile Justice Reform and Alternatives (IJJRA)

The Institute for Juvenile Justice Reform and Alternatives (IJJRA) is dedicated to fighting against the expansion of prisons and the use of police in New York City public schools. Formerly known as the Prison Moratorium Project, the IIRJA first became involved in these issues when it discovered, in 2000, that $64.6 million of New York City’s capital budget was set aside for the expansion of two secure juvenile justice facilities. This would have allowed each facility to add 100 more jail cells, with each additional jail cell costing $320,000. Outraged, IIJRA convened youth advocacy groups, educational justice organizations, juvenile justice policy groups, direct service organizations, and others who were most affected by these policies to develop a city-wide strategy to respond to the proposal. Ultimately, the groups formed the umbrella group “Justice for Youth Coalition.” This website owner, Charisa Kiyô Smith, strongly supports IJJRA and participates in many of their organizational events.

Girls Education and Mentoring Services (GEMS)

"In 1998, with only a computer and $30, Ashoka Fellow, Reebok Human Rights Award winner and leading child sex trafficking advocate Rachel Lloyd established GEMS: Girls Educational and Mentoring Services to support American girls and young women victimized by sex traffickers. Since its inception as a one-woman outreach program in 1998, GEMS has grown steadily, building its services and programs and garnering increased visibility and recognition under Lloyd’s leadership. Now the nation’s largest organization offering direct services to American victims of child sex trafficking, GEMS empowers girls and young women, ages 12-21, who have experienced commercial sexual exploitation and domestic trafficking to exit the sex industry and develop to their full potential." It has been an honor for this website owner, Charisa Kiyô Smith, to deliver educational workshops to the girls and young women of GEMS.

Juvenile Justice Project (JJP) of The Correctional Association of New York (CA)

"Through its work, the Juvenile Justice Project seeks to reorient the justice system away from a punitive approach toward a stronger emphasis on community-based prevention and alternatives to jail and prison...The Juvenile Justice Project believes that any effort to transform youth justice policies should adopt a vision of community justice – an effort to form creative partnerships between community groups and justice institutions to change the way the juvenile justice system operates in low-income, urban neighborhoods and in the larger society." This website owner, Charisa Kiyô Smith, was the former Director of the Juvenile Justice Project at the CA.

The Urban Youth Collaborative

The Urban Youth Collaborative brings New York City youth together to fight for change through local and citywide organizing strategies. We strive for social and economic justice throughout our communities—overcoming obstacles to make sure youth voices are heard and youth empowerment is emphasized. We, as a coalition, are committed to building a strong youth voice that can ensure our high schools prepare students to go to college, earn a living wage, and work for justice in society.

Planned Parenthood

"We are a trusted health care provider, an informed educator, a passionate advocate, and a global partner helping similar organizations around the world. Planned Parenthood delivers vital reproductive health care, sex education, and information to millions of women, men, and young people worldwide. For more than 90 years, Planned Parenthood has promoted a commonsense approach to women’s health and well-being, based on respect for each individual’s right to make informed, independent decisions about health, sex, and family planning." This website owner, Charisa Kiyô Smith, Esq., is active in Planned Parenthood activities and campaigns.

NY Faith & Justice

NY Faith & Justice is a growing movement of churches, organizations, and individuals committed to following Christ, uniting the church and ending poverty in New York through spiritual formation, education and direct advocacy. This website owner, Charisa Kiyô Smith, Esq., collaborates with NY Faith & Justice in their project "Conversations for Change," to bridge gaps between targeted communities and the New York City Police Department.

The Audre Lorde Project

The Audre Lorde Project is a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Two Spirit, Trans and Gender Non Conforming People of Color center for community organizing, focusing on the New York City area. Through mobilization, education and capacity-building, we work for community wellness and progressive social and economic justice. Committed to struggling across differences, we seek to responsibly reflect, represent and serve our various communities.


FIERCE is a membership-based organization building the leadership and power of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) youth of color in New York City. We develop politically conscious leaders who are invested in improving ourselves and our communities through youth-led campaigns, leadership development programs, and cultural expression through arts and media. FIERCE is dedicated to cultivating the next generation of social justice movement leaders who are dedicated to ending all forms of oppression.

The New York City Anti-Violence Project

The New York City Anti-Violence Project is dedicated to eliminating hate violence, sexual assault, stalking, and domestic violence in lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and HIV-affected communities through counseling, advocacy, organizing, and public education.

The New York Center for Juvenile Justice

The New York Center for Juvenile Justice’s Mission can be condensed to four words: 
Judging Children as Children. We secure justice for children by promoting a model of justice for minors that treats children as children, and responds to their misconduct with strategies designed to improve their chances of becoming constructive members of society. The NYCJJ strategy to revitalize our Juvenile Justice system has three components: Educate - We disseminate research on juvenile justice issues, formulate policy proposals and create avenues for communication and cooperation between public and private sectors in an effort to bring about changes that would ensure that children are judged as children. Advise - We advise on a range of programs designed to improve our Juvenile Justice system. We are convening a coalition of parents, community leaders, mental health experts and others to achieve this goal. Implement - We have been involved in the implementation of programs that are expanding the services available to youth and families that find themselves in our Juvenile and Criminal Justice Systems. The New York Center for Juvenile Justice is represented by: Michael A. Corriero (Executive Director) and Yuval Sheer (Deputy Director). The Honorable Michael A. Corriero is a former presiding judge of the NYC Youth Part, a court specifically for juvenile offenders of serious crimes between ages 13 - 15, and he is a longtime mentor of this website owner, Charisa Kiyô Smith.

Big Brothers Big Sisters of New York City

The mission of Big Brothers Big Sisters of New York City is to provide mentors to all children who need caring adult role models--special friends who can help expand their horizons, realize their potential and enrich their futures--changing their lives. We seek to train community organizations in every neighborhood, empowering them to establish their own mentoring programs.

The Legal Aid Society of New York

"The Legal Aid Society is the nation's oldest and largest provider of legal services to the indigent. Founded in 1876, the Society provides a full range of civil legal services as well as criminal defense work, and juvenile rights representation in Family Court. Our core service is to provide free legal assistance to New Yorkers who live at or below the poverty level and cannot afford to hire a lawyer when confronted with a legal problem."