Don't let Yanoff's retirement leave a void

For 25 years and more, the Philadelphia area has had a relentless advocate in Shelley Yanoff for improving the lives of children.

As the longtime executive director of the nonprofit agency Public Citizens for Children and Youth, Yanoff’s contribution, as she prepares to step down from her post in the fall, can be charted readily in the critical initiatives she and her agency tackled.

Shelly Yanoff

Whether lobbying state lawmakers for the creation of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), taking busloads of protesters to Harrisburg to fight for more funding for child-welfare programs, schools, full-day kindergarten, or establishing free vision and dental exams for thousands of city kids, Yanoff has been a force to be reckoned with by policymakers in both parties.

Nominated twice in the last two years for The Inquirer’s  Citizen of the Year award, and given the 1997 Gimbel Philadelphia Award honoring a Philadelphia woman’s significant contribution to her field, Yanoff has reached into the lives of countless children over her impressive career.

Before taking over the reins in 1987, the former public-interest lawyer served as policy director for then-Mayor W. Wilson Goode Sr., focusing on legal strategies impacting health and child-welfare concerns.

Her agency’s board chairwoman, Carolyn Adams, in announcing a search for a new director, credited Yanoff with making PCCY “one of the region’s most tenacious advocates on behalf of children and their families.”

Given current Republican policies under Gov. Corbett that will poke gaping holes in Pennsylvania’s social safety net — among them, the unconscionable jettisoning of 89,000 low-income children from the state’s medical-assistance rolls — the value of Yanoff’s brand of advocacy cannot be overstated.