Agenda for Children was founded in 1984 by a multi-racial group of dedicated community advocates to create an independent voice for Louisiana’s children. Judy Watts, one of the co-founders, was tapped to lead the organization.
A native of Youngstown, Ohio, Watts attended Wellesley and Newcomb colleges. She moved to New Orleans in 1961, operated the Teacher Resource Service, directed the Sarah Allen Childcare Center and then moved to St. Mark’s Community Center, where Executive Director David Billings hired her to work on her vision for high-quality child care. While at St. Mark’s, she created a training program for day care providers and a resource and referral center for parents.
It was through this work that Judy became known as a fierce advocate for children and grew Agenda to be the state’s first and largest child advocacy organization. Former U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, one of a handful of women serving in the Louisiana Legislature when Judy was in Baton Rouge, once stated that “Judy Watts was one of the early clarion voices for children in the State Capitol.”
Her leadership led Agenda to work on child care issues but she was equally passionate about juvenile-justice reform, early childhood education, child abuse prevention and foster care. Watts retired in 2010 and died in 2015, but evidence of her loving legacy can be found in the smiling faces of the countless Louisiana children whose lives she positively impacted through her determined struggle on their behalf.
In 2018 and in honor of the City’s tricentennial, Judy was honored with 299 other New Orleanians, including co-founder and long-time board member Linetta Gilbert, as one of the 300 individuals who made New Orleans New Orleans.
Agenda for Children