Toward a Brighter Future: a National Children and Youth Policy Agenda

September 15, 2008

Agenda updated in September 2009.

Sept. 15, 2008—The National Collaboration for Youth (NCY), a 40 year old coalition of youth-serving nonprofits, has proposed a national policy agenda, Toward a Brighter Future: An Essential Agenda for America's Young People. pdf

The agenda comes at a time when federal government's investment in children and youth continues to decline. According to the First Focus Children's Budget Book, federal spending on children decreased by 10 percent in the past five years.

It's an easy-to-read, inspiring and visually appealing document that contains an overarching set of recommendations for federal policy changes and investments designed "to move this nation toward a brighter future and invest in the needs of our children and youth."

Read the AgendaA key feature of the recommendations is that they cut across all aspects of child development—from early learning to adolescence to the transition to young adulthood, and the many family, community and system supports that affect a child's life. The agenda focuses on three core elements that form a unifying strategy for the federal government's work on issues facing young people:

  1. A focus on the whole child;
  2. A fundamental premise that all young people should be treated with dignity and equality; and
  3. A positive youth development approach that builds not from the deficits in young people's lives, but from assets.

"A shared vision and strategy, comprehensive and integrated supports, and needed improvements in key programs, together these elements will change the odds for our kids" said Don Floyd, CEO of the National 4-H Council and Chair of the National Collaboration for Youth. "With this agenda, policymakers can begin to focus greater and more strategic investments in children and youth, so that more young people succeed."

The agenda is divided into the following one-page sections:

  • Federal Public Policy Recommendations
  • Early Childhood
  • Education for All Children and Youth
  • Quality Afterschool and Summer Programs
  • Child Welfare
  • Healthy Children and Youth
  • Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention
  • Runaway and Homeless Youth
  • Youth Service
  • Youth Employment

Together, the recommendations represent an important first step that the authors say can save money, improve health, strengthen families, produce a more educated workforce for coming decades, and lay a base for an America that will thrive into the next century.

"The members of the National Collaboration for Youth, the nation's youth-serving agencies, know the young people in our communities and therefore have a unique perspective," said Irv Katz, President and CEO of the National Human Services Assembly and Lead Staff to the NCY. "From that vantage point, we are advising the Presidential campaigns and Congress not pick and choose from these recommendations but to build upon the complete agenda, so that every child has the opportunity to excel."

For more information on this agenda and the NCY, you can contact Natalie Thompson at or visit

About the National Collaboration for Youth: The National Collaboration for Youth, a 40-year old affinity group, is a coalition of National Human Services Assembly member organizations that have a significant interest in youth development. Members of NCY include more than 45 national, non-profit, youth development organizations. Our mission is to provide a united voice as advocates for youth to improve the conditions of young people in America, and to help young people reach their full potential. The National Collaboration for Youth brings together experts in Public Policy, Programming and Research to share knowledge and promote collective action to improve the lives of America's youth.