Melanie Bridgeforth has always been drawn to helping others — especially children.
The Athens native was recently named the executive director of VOICES for Alabama’s Children.
“Children are powerless because they have no voice and have no vote,” Bridgeforth said. “They are virtual afterthoughts, at best, in the political process. They obviously lack the capability to represent themselves before decision making bodies such as the Alabama Legislature, or the various state agencies that adopt regulations day in and day out, which impact their lives.”
Bridgeforth said that is where an organization like Montgomery-based VOICES for Alabama’s Children comes in. “We speak on their behalf to the decision makers and institutions who have the power to give us the change we seek and our children need,” she said. “Through advocacy, we as an organization and quite frankly each of us individually, can help level the playing field for our children.”
In her role as executive director, Bridgeforth will serve as the organization’s lead spokesperson and chief legislative liaison as well as serve on numerous statewide councils including the State Children’s Policy Council, the state Early Childhood Advisory Council and the board of directors for the Alabama School Readiness Alliance.
Bridgeforth, the daughter of John Bridgeforth and Catherine Bridgeforth of Athens, is a 2000 graduate of Athens High School and received her undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Alabama. She has a master’s degree in social work with a concentration in public policy and administration.
VOICES for Alabama’s Children was established in 1992 by leading child advocates in the state. The organization was the first, and remains the only, organization to document the conditions of children in each of the state’s 67 counties. VOICES focuses on the issues that matter most to children in families: health, safety, education and economic security.
Using information from resources such as Alabama Kids Count, VOICES works to help Alabamians understand the current conditions of the state’s children, what can be done to improve those conditions and what it means to the state if conditions don’t improve.
In 1992 — the year VOICES was created — KIDS COUNT National Data Book ranked Alabama 48th in the nation in overall child well-being. In 2013, KIDS COUNT ranked Alabama 44th, its best ranking to date.
“On behalf of the board of directors of VOICES for Alabama’s Children, I am delighted to welcome Melanie Bridgeforth as the new executive director and I’m confident that she is just what our organization needs to help move the needle, beginning with this critical legislative session,” board president Judge John Rochester said. “Her experience, passion, energy and demonstrated leadership in child advocacy will help build on our recent successes and pave the way for future ones.”
Bridgeforth is no stranger to the organization. Prior to working most recently as the government relations director with the American Heart Association, Bridgeforth served as policy analyst for VOICES, overseeing public policy, research, grassroots and legislative activities.