By Tim Mudd
The wellbeing of children, youth and families is a key part of the success of any community. Mayors and city councilmembers see every day the communitywide effects of poverty, child abuse and school failure – and the vibrancy brought to neighborhoods when children and youth reach their full potential.
Many city leaders recognize that local actions to strengthen families and improve outcomes for children and youth are among the most important investments they can make in the health and economic vitality of their cities. In the words of NLC’s Council on Youth, Education, and Families (YEF Council) from a special a message to city leaders, “Strong cities are built on a foundation of strong families and empowered neighborhoods that support every child.”
Led by the experience and advice of members of the YEF Council and partnerships with countless other mayors and city councilmembers across the nation, NLC’s Institute for Youth, Education and Families (YEF Institute) has developed A City Platform for Children and Families to guide municipal leadership on behalf of children, youth and families in their communities.
In recognition that local circumstances and needs often vary greatly, the City Platform highlights four key priorities that reflect the building blocks of what every child, in every community, needs to live a full, healthy and productive life:
In each of these areas, the City Platform calls upon mayors and city councilmembers to set bold, measurable goals or targets that focus attention on key opportunities for progress and address pressing challenges in their communities. The Platform also identifies essential strategies that city leaders can use in developing a municipal agenda for children, youth and families that fosters effective and enduring change.
Last week at NLC’s biennial National Summit of Your City’s Families in Seattle, participants engaged in a series of facilitated and interactive conversations around the Platform’s four central goals. The ideas that emerged from these sessions will serve as starting points for the YEF Council and the YEF Institute as they work to develop clearer benchmarks for success that can guide local implementation and evaluation efforts.
“The problems we face – from unacceptably high dropout, youth homicide, and foreclosure rates to rising financial instability and an epidemic of childhood obesity – will only grow if they are not addressed,” said the YEF Council. “City leaders are in a unique position to make a difference in these and other areas. The time to act is now.”