Building and Empowering Impactful Children’s Cabinets

On February 28, 2024, the National Governors Association Children & Families team hosted the monthly Human Services Policy Advisors Institute call, which focused on state children’s cabinets 


Childrens cabinets typically comprise key public and private sector experts and can be critical to the cross-agency coordination of the Governor’s children’s initiatives. A powerful tool in a Governor’s arsenal, they can foster momentum across multiple different departments and can compel resource alignment across siloes. Each children’s cabinet structure and mission is unique, but many include voices from education, human services, child welfare, child care, juvenile justice, or behavioral health and can facilitate cross-agency collaboration, enabled by strategic design and governance structure.   


  • Meghan McCann, Vice President of State Policy, Forum for Youth Investment 

Key Takeaways for States 

As of 2019 , there are 27 states with some sort of children’s cabinet structure in the state, with 8 cabinets embedded directly in the Governor’s office.

Composition and mission of the body may differ, including:

  • The host of the cabinet, whether that’s an agency, the judiciary, or the Governor’s office directly
  • The charter, purpose, or scope of the cabinet:
    • Out of FFYI’s 2019 survey, the most common focuses for children’s cabinets were youth workforce opportunities, K-12 education, child care, juvenile justice reform, and economic opportunity
    • Maine’s Children’s Cabinet has two overarching goals: 1) children enter kindergarten ready to succeed, and 2) all youth enter adulthood, healthy, connected to the workforce and or education
  • The number of dedicated staff, if any, that serve the children’s cabinet
    • Staffing for children’s cabinets is varied: most have less than 1 staff member, while 7 out of 30 had more than 6 dedicated staff
  • Membership composition:
    • While composition depends on the cabinet’s unique purpose, most children’s cabinets contain representatives from K-12, health and human services, and child and family agencies
    • 21 of the 30 surveyed states included child welfare, and 11 included juvenile justice
  • The amount and source of dedicated funding:
    • Most states allocated appropriations directly to a children’s cabinets, either by a Governor’s executive budget (like Kansas), or by agency budgets (like Minnesota)

Indiana’s Children’s Cabinet, which is a three-branch effort, and while it is currently embedded in the judiciary, it switches “hosts” every 2 years

Minnesota’s Children’s Cabinet, with is embedded within the Department of Health and Human Services, and helps determine budget asks based on fiscal mapping of existing children’s initiatives

Presentation and Discussion Notes

In breakout groups, states discussed opportunities for children’s cabinets to be an actor that drives towards tangible solutions. Participants called out the different base-level infrastructure choices that can have an impact on the effectiveness of Children’s Cabinets, like dedicated staffing, appointment processes, leadership, and funding. States that currently do not have an active Children’s Cabinet shared reflections on existing structures that foster collaboration on child and family policy, like working groups or task forces, and explored potential benefits of a standing up a Childrens Cabinet 


  • Forum For Youth Investment (FFYI) is a national nonpartisan nonprofit that works to help all youth and families reach their full potential by advancing equitable youth supports, quality capacity building, and cross system connections. 
  • The Children’s Cabinet Network through FFYI has been around for 20 years and supports state children’s cabinets to improve capacity and their ability to work across systems through policy and technical assistance support. 
  • A “children’s cabinet” is loosely defined as an interagency coordinating body, sometimes within the Governor’s office a state agency, or split between multiple branches of government 
  • As of a 2019 survey by FFYI, 27 states (AK, OR, UT, CO, NM, OK, KS, NE, ND, MN, IA, IL, LA, IN, FL, GA, TN, SC, NC, VA, PA, NY, ME, VT, RI, CT, MD) have some sort of children’s cabinet structure
    • Of these states, NM, OK, KS, ND, FL, GA, CT and MD have cabinets embedded directly in the Governor’s office