Government Structures

Children’s Cabinets
Youth Councils and Commissions 
Commissioners/Commissions for Children
Ombudspersons
Government Auditors

Children’s Cabinets

According to the Forum for Youth investment, Children’s Cabinets are typically made up of the heads of all government agencies with child- and youth-serving programs, and they can operate at any level of government, such as city, county, state or federal levels. They meet regularly to coordinate services, develop a common set of outcomes, and collaboratively decide upon and implement plans to foster the well-being of young people.

  • Children’s Cabinet Network: The Forum for Youth Investment’s Children’s Cabinet Network bring together federal, state, and local leaders to assess and align government policies—at any level (e.g., city, county, state, etc.)—horizontally (across systems) and vertically (across levels of government). Examples of state children’s cabinets included here.
  • A Governor’s Guide to Children’s Cabinets: National Governors Association Center for Best Practices
  • Local Children’s Cabinets Network is co-hosted and co-managed by the Children’s Funding Project, Education Redesign Lab (EdRedesign) at Harvard Graduate School of Education, and the Forum for Youth Investment. The Network supports the growing number of communities across the country that have committed to move beyond traditional, fragmented approaches to serving children and youth by convening a children’s cabinet to improve child and youth outcomes. Local children’s cabinets are listed here.
  • The Urgent Need for Children’s Cabinets: Harvard Graduate School of Education

Youth Councils and Commissions

Promoting Youth Participation Action Kit for Municipal Leaders: National League of Cities, Institute for Youth, Education, and Families

A Guide for Creating a City Youth Council: Florida League of Cities

Authentic Youth Civic Engagement: Includes several local examples of youth engagement at the city level; National League of Cities Institute for Youth Education, and Families

The Campaign for a Presidential Youth Council is a bi-partisan, youth-led initiative to establish a Presidential Youth Council, comprised of young Americans ages 16-24, to advise the president on the perspectives of youth, offer suggestions on the design and implementation of youth policies, and to create shared recommendations on issues that will affect the long-term future of our country.

California Youth Commissions and Councils: Compilation of local youth commissions, councils, and advisory boards

The Mayor’s Youth Council, Boston, Massachusetts 

The Mayors Youth Advisory Commission, Tempe, Arizona

The Students Commission of Canada Organization that works to help create a world where young people are valued and heard and their ideas for improving themselves, the lives of their peers and communities are put into action.

Commissioners/Commissions for Children

At least 85 countries outside the U.S. have children’s country-wide and/or local commissions/commissioners, according to the Child Rights International Network.

Children’s Commissioners and Ombudsman Offices: What can the U.S. learn from foreign counterparts? First Focus

Commissioner for Children and Young People in Scotland

Children’s Commissioner for England 

National Commission on the Rights of the Child, Belgium

Office of the Children’s Commissioner, New Zealand

Ombudspersons

Ombudsman offices within government exist to address individual complaints and identify and address system-wide problems within government agencies. There are different types of ombudsman offices, including those that exist within local, state, and federal government; address various issues, such as education, health, transportation, etc.; and focus on particular populations, such as children or subpopulations of children, seniors, and other identified groups of individuals. Generally, ombudsman offices operate by managing complaints from clients of programs and the public, monitoring the operations of government programs and services, and making recommendations for improvements to relevant systems.

Children’s Ombudsman Offices—also known as Offices of the Child Advocate—exist in approximately 38 states to assist in providing oversight at both the state and local level related to services for children and families. Most children’s ombudsman offices are primarily concerned with child welfare services and may operate within or outside of the state’s child welfare agency and operate as other ombudsmen offices described above. Like other ombudsman offices, they are concerned with resolving both individual and system-wide problems with the child welfare or other child-focused agency.

Ombudswork for Children: UNICEF

European Network of Ombudspersons for Children is an association of independent children’s rights institutions (ICRIs). Its mandate is to facilitate the promotion and protection of the rights of children, as formulated in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Government Auditors

Roles of Auditing in Public Sector Governance: The Institute of Internal Auditors

All states have a state auditor’s office or an office that assumes the responsibilities of a state auditor. The function of the state auditor is housed in either a state’s legislature (23 states), executive office/state administration (33 states), or both (8 states).

Among other duties, state auditors act as watchdogs over other state agencies, performing internal government audits and investigating fraud allegations. For example, a state auditor may analyze how a state department of education is addressing certain educational needs of children or how a state health department is meeting required public health benchmarks.

Depending on state laws, state auditors can perform an audit on any or select departments, institutions, or agencies and assess an entity’s overall performance or performance in providing select services or serving a particular populations. Some state auditors assess political subdivisions, such as counties, cities, school districts, water districts, and others. 

State Auditors Offices

Local Government Auditors

Across the U.S., there are select government auditors in practically all levels of local government, including cities, counties, school districts, tribal governments, utility districts, and others. They perform similar roles as state auditors—keeping the government entity accountable to the public. To find out if a local government entity has an auditor, search the entity’s website or ask a public official. You can also advocate for the creation of an auditor within a government entity. 

Examples of Audits Related to Children