National Coalition calls for new White House-led focus on children and youth

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3 min read

More than 350 leaders and organizations across the United States have joined forces to call on President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Harris to establish a new Office on Children and Youth in the executive branch.

The urging for cohesive national leadership is being led by Nemours Children’s Health System, Mental Health America, First Focus on Children, The Education Redesign Lab at Harvard Graduate School of Education, and the Forum for Youth Investment. The coalition notes that the confluence of the pandemic, longstanding racial injustice, and the economic downturn have created a critical inflection point for the nation’s future.

“Investing in the health of children is the single most powerful lever to create a healthier society and a stronger economy. We should honor the lives lost to COVID-19 due to chronic health conditions by taking action in child health that will prevent these diseases from occurring,” said R. Lawrence Moss, president and CEO of Nemours Children’s Health System.

The intent of the new office is to improve the health, well-being, and education of America’s young, advance equity, eliminate disparities, and ensure that federal policies prioritize their unique needs. The office would convene a “children’s cabinet” of federal agencies to serve as a single coordinating point across and within existing programs and services.

The office and children’s cabinet would set a clear national agenda with outcome metrics and a cohesive, multi-agency budget to prioritize the health and well-being of children and youth. The office would also host a White House Conference on Children and Youth to bring in outside experts and stakeholders, including youth, as a catalyst for progress.

A strong economic recovery hinges on policies and resources to support schools and communities, rebuild the childcare sector, and address the health and mental health needs of children and youth to lift them above the obstacles created by the pandemic.

Raising a nation of young people ready for learning, work, and life requires public systems that actively foster positive youth development based on science and equity. A focus on these issues would create a synergistic response to decrease rates of childhood mental health disorders, expand educational opportunities, and stabilize food security and housing opportunities as part of a long-term investment in the health, quality of life, productivity, and lifespan of America’s youngest generation.

“Moving beyond the pandemic to a stronger, healthier nation requires a new, collaborative approach to children’s issues,” said Jennifer Davis, senior advisor at Harvard’s Education Redesign Lab and former education official in the Clinton administration. “Schools alone cannot meet children’s complex needs.  At every level of government, we need to focus on a holistic approach to child well-being — one that builds cross-sector support systems for children and youth from cradle to career.”

For more information and the accompanying issue brief and charter from these organizations, available at: