Addressing the Needs of Youth in America's Cities and Towns

Article excerpt

The National League of Cities has an ongoing organizational commitment to youth, education, and families. This commitment which carries strong Board support is rooted in the programs and policies of municipalities across the country and in what local officials think is the fight thing to do.

NLC's recent survey on children and families in cities shows that nearly every city is involved with issues, programs, or policies affecting youth, education, and families. Nearly 800 cities described their local efforts and cited their opinions and needs.

Many cities are asking for assistance in meeting these needs.

Ongoing NLC work in four major categories demonstrates NLC's significant commitment to addressing the issues that affect children, youth, and families. These four categories are grant supported programs, national policy development, federal advocacy, and national collaboration.

Grant Supported Programs

For the past nine years, NLC has aggressively sought grant support for its program on children and families. To date, NLC has received over $1.8 million to increase the leadership effectiveness of local government officials and community leaders. The program is rooted in the inextricable link between the success of families and the success of communities.

With the grant funds, NLC publishes books, disseminates information, carries out research and surveys, holds workshops and conferences, and provides technical assistance directly to individual cities.

The ABC Process

The Action for Building Communities (ABC) Process, which has been used with teams in over 60 cities, has three phases of interactive problem-solving and technical assistance. It involves (1) the establishment by cities of collaborative teams composed of both elected officials and community leaders-which then conduct goal setting and assessment activities around a particular issue; (2) the bringing together of teams for problem-solving roundtable discussions which enable them to share with each other and to receive help in developing action plans that they will use at home; and (3) follow-through monitoring and technical assistance during implementation.

Your City's Families Conference

The successful Your City's Families conference, held in Atlanta in 1995 and in Minneapolis in 1993, is now becoming an every-other-year event for city teams of local officials, community leaders, and advocates who work together on addressing the needs of their community's children and families. The conference provides general sessions and workshops, as well as facilitator's to provide individualized assistance to each participating city team. The next conference is being planned for September 1997.

Survey on Children and

Families in Cities

The survey findings, reported in NLC's "Critical Needs, Critical Choices" and released in Marc 1996, have been distributed nationwide through a broad range of media connections. The findings document that most municipal governments are involved in some way in addressing the needs of children and families and describe the kinds of involvement. Both professionals in the field and leaders at various levels of government have contacted us to receive more information.

Grants

Beginning in May 1996, a new two-year grant from the Annie E. Casey Foundation is allowing NLC to pursue new goals to support the ongoing organizational commitment. In particular, the new work will focus on reaching out to state municipal leagues and to individual cities and community leaders with support for establishing and maintaining effective intergovernmental relationships around issues affecting children, youth, and families. In addition to those projects detailed above, there are several grants that NLC has obtained for related efforts. These include five separate, but complementary projects on diversity, poverty reduction and economic development, housing, young African American males, and community policing. …