Just a few short years ago, Florida’s Children and Youth Cabinet convened their very first meeting with a blank piece of paper, a legislative charge and no funding, not to mention the eight department heads at the table with their very separate and protected agendas. Three years later, of the twenty states that have a children and youth cabinet, theCabinet is one of the most proficient in the country. How did that happen?
Enshrined in Florida Statutes, the form and function of the Cabinet, as defined by the people through their Legislature, embodies strong leadership and agency representation, along with clear direction. A coordinating council by definition, the Cabinet’s posture of pointed strength has allowed us to break down the silos that have perpetually existed between state agencies, and aggressively move forward an agenda that oftentimes met resistance and was considered too ambitious.
A serious lack of resources, at first considered a hindrance to progress, forced the Cabinet, out of necessity, to seek out partnerships with key stakeholders and collaboration among the agencies represented on the Cabinet. This “fortunate” situation eventually developed into a vested “buy-in” for Cabinet success. Local communities and citizens also took ownership of their Cabinet, providing the grassroots support that is often needed for an effort to be truly legitimate. What have we achieved?
In addition to adopting a strategic plan to better coordinate children and family services in Florida, the Cabinet has completed or begun work on all nine of its statutorily required duties and responsibilities. Some of the accomplishments of the Cabinet, for which it has received recognition from other states and national organizations, include the implementation of a web-based, cross-agency data sharing system to help improve service delivery, and the development of a children and youth budget structure for evaluating funding streams that will be aligned with the Cabinet’s work on key child well-being indicators.
The Cabinet also created an Early Childhood Advisory Council, funded by a federal grant, to develop a high quality, comprehensive system of early childhood education and care that ensures statewide coordination and collaboration among the wide array of early childhood programs. What next for the Cabinet?
With the Children and Youth Cabinet, Florida is now poised to support and uphold the vision that Florida is a place where our families and their children can thrive. Florida is in a position to promote and implement collaboration, creativity, increased efficiency, and improved service delivery between and within our state agencies and organizations.