Increasingly, local government leaders recognize that building stronger families and improving outcomes for their children and young people are the keys to long-term social and economic success.
"A community's quality of life can be measured by the opportunities available to help children and families succeed," says Ron Gonzales, mayor of San Jose, Calif., the past chair of National League of Cities' (NLC) Council on Youth, Education, and Families. "Without this investment, communities face higher costs for public safety and human services, tighter municipal budgets, reduced potential of the local workforce and weakened growth of the local economy."
In order to support these efforts, NLC has developed a new initiative to help young people succeed. The two-part "City Platform for Strengthening Families and Improving Outcomes for Children and Youth" urges officials to take specific actions that have proven to strengthen families and promote sustained progress over time, including recommendations to:
• Bring together leaders from the public, private and nonprofit sectors as well as parents and other community residents through a mayor's task force or commission to identify their communities' needs, opportunities and priorities.
• Promote effective city-school collaboration through regular meetings between the mayor and city council, school board and school superintendent that focus on shared priorities and the development of joint plans of action.
• Directly involve young people by sponsoring a mayor's youth council, appointing youth to municipal boards and committees, and holding communitywide youth summits.
• Measure progress over time through a community "scorecard" that tracks key outcomes and places them within the context of a broader report on the status of children, youth and families.
The second part of the platform recommends a set of concrete action steps for communities to undertake in key areas, including early childhood development; youth development; education and afterschool programs; health and safety; youth in transition and at risk; family economic success; and neighborhoods and community.
"This platform provides a blueprint all city leaders can follow," Gonzales said.