Today in our Commonwealth, children and families in need are served by multiple agencies -- Department of Children and Families, Department of Youth Services, Department of Mental Health - as well as by their local public schools. Yet, there is often little or no coordination among the agencies and public school systems.
Social workers rarely talk with, or even know, the teacher of the child with whom they are working -- a teacher who may spend as many as six hours each day with the child. Too often the burden of navigating the labyrinth of social services falls on these already struggling families -- or, worse, on the children themselves.
In an effort to better align state and local services for children, youth and their families, many states have begun establishing children or youth cabinets. Here in Massachusetts, in October 2008, Governor Patrick signed an executive order establishing the Child and Youth Readiness Cabinet -- a state leadership team focused on streamlining state efforts to improve services for children, youth and families. The Readiness Cabinet is jointly chaired by Paul Reville, Secretary of Education, and Dr. JudyAnn Bigby, Secretary of Health and Human Services, and includes the state secretaries of Administration and Finance, Housing and Economic Development, Labor and Workforce Development, Public Safety and the Child Advocate.
The Rennie Center's new policy brief, Toward Interagency Collaboration: The Role of Children's Cabinets, is designed to inform the general public about the purpose of children's cabinets and to highlight the potential role that non-government stakeholders (such as parents, youth leaders, advocacy groups, and service providers) might play as the Governor's Child and Youth Readiness Cabinet begins their work in Massachusetts. It was also written to contribute to the policy dialogue about how to increase the level of collaboration among state departments and agencies that serve Massachusetts children, youth and families by putting forth examples of structures and strategies being used by other states' children's cabinets to carry out their work. The policy brief was the subject of discussion at a public event on June 10, 2009, co-hosted by the Full-service Schools Roundtable.