Tireless defender of children to step down from nonprofit

Shelly Yanoff (center), who heads the Public Citizens for Children and Youth, makes her point at a City Council hearing last June. Alejandro A. Alvarez / STaff Photographer
Shelly Yanoff (center), who heads the Public Citizens for Children and Youth, makes her point at a City Council hearing last June. Alejandro A. Alvarez / STaff Photographer
Posted: May 30, 2012

Shelly Yanoff, a longtime champion of children’s causes, will step down this fall from her role as head of the nonprofit Public Citizens for Children and Youth, the organization’s board of directors announced yesterday.

During her 25-year tenure with the agency, the feisty Yanoff led a Harrisburg rally with 2,000 people from Philadelphia, demanding more state aid for neglected kids. Yanoff, who says she’s older than 70, also helped craft legislation that became the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which covers health- care costs for children statewide, and advocated for the adoption of full-day kindergarten.

Yanoff answered some questions from the Daily News on Tuesday.

Q: What are your proudest achievements?

A: There are so many that I’m proud of. It’s when people stand up and speak out for kids. When they recognize it’s more than their own kids, it’s all kids … When we convince people that’s it’s important to look at kids in the welfare system … I’m proud of the full-day kindergarten. I’m proud that we don’t give up the fight.

Q: What areas still need the most improvement?

A: The gap between the low-income children and wealthy children is increasing, and that presents problems across the board for us and we should be working together. I also think we need to recognize that taxes are the price we pay to live in a civilized society, and if we don’t pay that price, we will live in a society that we will reject and regret.

Q: What three things did this job teach you?

A: That people can respond to the needs of kids. That there are many different ways to get to a good result and that nothing ever stays done. You have to keep at it.

Q: What will you miss the most about Public Citizens for Children and Youth?

A: A wonderful group of people and staff and board and a community. And a belief that exists in this organization that you can make a difference and I hope to carry that wherever I go.

Q: What’s next for you?

A: I don’t know. I have four grandchildren. Three of whom don’t live near here and I’m going to visit them … The door’s wide open.

Q: If you weren’t a lawyer or a children’s advocate, what would you have done with your life?

A: I have no idea. I’ve been lucky to be able to work at something that I value and I would hope that anything that I do next would be something that I value.

Contact Regina Medina at 215-854-5985 or medinar@phillynews.com, or follow on Twitter @reginamedina.

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