Policymaker Accountability

Local and State
Additional Resources

Local and State

AirNow’s “Air Quality Index” (AQI), EPA’s indicator for reporting air quality, is updated daily and available by zip code.

The Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, which operates through voluntary arrangements in 350 communities across 43 states, focuses on one major goal: improving third-grade-level reading proficiency. The campaign, which partners with nonprofits, business, philanthropy, and government, is embarking on a network-wide data platform called the Learning for Impact and Improvement System (LIIS). The new platform will help communities learn from each other about what works and will promote greater accountability for getting to population-level change and closing gaps for children from low-income families.

Children Now’s “2018-19 California County Scorecard of Children’s Well-Being” is an interactive, online report that presents a picture of children’s condition in each of California’s 58 counties. This report provides county-level data visualizations, tracking 30 key indicators of child well-being across counties, over time, and by race and ethnicity. Viewers can see all indicators for a given county or see one indicator across all counties. Rankings indicate how a county stacks up vis-à-vis other counties.

The Children’s Trust’s “The Billion Dollar Bet On A Community’s Future: How the Children’s Trust persuaded the 2.4 million residents of Florida’s largest county to tax themselves during an economic downturn” (Martin Merzer) examines and analyzes the planning and implementation of a campaign in Miami-Dade County to reauthorize hundreds of programs that serve children in the areas of health care, education, and safety.

Common Sense Kids Action’s “California Legislative Scorecard 2018” rates legislators in the California Assembly and Senate based on 56 key “For Kids” and “Against Kids” bills in the 2017 legislative session. The bills address early life, family life, school life, and digital life. Legislators who scored above 90% were awarded a “For Kids” star.

Maryland Governor’s Office for Children on behalf of the Children’s Cabinet’s “Maryland Child Well-Being Scorecard” has been issued annually for more than 15 years by the governor’s office. The tool tracks results from areas known to affect a child’s ability to grow up healthy and secure. The governor’s office describes the scorecard as a “Results-based accountability framework to focus planning, decision-making and budgeting on desired results and outcomes.” This initiative now links with local management boards that exist in each county and the city of Baltimore to serve as a planning and coordinating hub for children and family services.

Santa Clara County Supervisors Vote to Make Use of Child Impact Statements. Impact assessments were approved by the County Board of Supervisors in 2011 to ensure that children’s needs are taken into consideration in all county decision-making. The county’s Bill of Rights for Children and Youth and the goals of the Children’s Agenda are the basis for assessing impact. The Bill of Rights and Children’s Agenda also form the basis for a detailed annual report of progress by Kids in Common.

STAR Communities’ “Community Rating System” aims to address the needs of U.S. cities, towns, and counties seeking a common framework for sustainability. The initiative is a voluntary, menu-based certification program designed for communities to evaluate their progress against a set of standardized sustainability objectives and evaluation measures. Its seven goal areas and 21 leading indicators were developed in partnership with volunteers representing 50 cities and counties, state and federal agencies, nonprofit organizations, national associations, universities, utilities, and private corporations. Leading indicators are organized into an online platform where U.S. cities and counties can annually report key sustainability metrics. Communities of all sizes and experience can use the leading indicators to benchmark annual performance and compare their progress with participating communities.

Women’s Foundation of California’s “California Women’s Well-Being Index” is a web-based interactive tool that shows data and rankings, by county, for how California’s women are faring. The 30 measures encompass health, personal safety, employment and earnings, economic security, and political empowerment. The stated goal is to help provide a basis for policy solutions to advance women’s well-being.


The Annie E. Casey Foundation’s “KIDS COUNT Data Book” analyzes national trends in overall child well-being and ranks states according to four domains: economic well-being, education, health, and family and community. The report, published annually since 1990, uses a variety of sources, including data from governmental agencies, reports from foundations and nonprofits, and other studies.

Child Welfare Information Gateway’s National Technical Assistance and Evaluation Center for Systems of Care offers the resource “A Closer Look: Accountability” (2010), which defines accountability and discusses challenges and strategies for implementing accountability in the context of the child welfare system.

Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics, a clearinghouse established by executive order in 1997, annually issues its report “America’s Children: Key National Indicators of Well-Being.” It presents 41 key indicators on important aspects of children’s lives, grouped in seven categories: family and social environment, economic circumstances, health care, physical environment and safety, behavior, education, and health. The data are culled from federal agencies and analyzed with input from foundations, academic researchers, and state and local service providers.

First Focus Campaign for Children’s “2020 Champions and Defenders for Children: Legislative Scorecard” tallies up actions that members of the 116th Congress took related to making children a top priority.

Forum for Youth Investment’s “2020 State Policy Survey: Child & Youth Policy Coordinating Bodies in the United States” is the nation’s only survey of state child and youth policy coordinating bodies, offering detailed insights and lessons learned to those who work to serve youth. The report reviews their decisions and experiences in hopes these can help inform other state leaders and coordinating bodies. The 2020 edition explores the ways that children’s cabinets responded to the COVID-19 pandemic.

National Conference of State Legislatures’ “Children’s Ombudsman Offices/Office of the Child Advocate” reviews what children’s ombudsman offices are, the functions they typically provide, and the various types that exist. It also provides a state-by-state summary of ombudsman services.

Urban Institute’s “Kids’ Share 2021: Report on Federal Expenditures on Children Through 2020 and Future Projections” (2021) is the 15th edition of an annual report that analyzes federal spending on children from 1960 until the present. These reports also project the proportion of federal expenditures spent on children in the future.


Éloi Laurent’s Measuring Tomorrow: Accounting for Well-Being, Resilience, and Sustainability in the Twenty-First Century (2018) provides a forward-looking analysis of what societies should measure, how these measures can be used to develop new policies, and includes case studies from around the world.

Judith Kelley’s Scorecard Diplomacy: Grading States to Influence Their Reputation and Behavior (2017) presents new research suggesting that in an international setting—and under the right conditions—countries can be motivated to action by appealing to their reputation. Grading countries on human trafficking—supported by practical assistance from government, expanded publicity, and indirect pressure from third parties—resulted in improved policies.

Save the Children’s “The Many Faces of Exclusion: End of Childhood Report 2018” dramatizes outcomes for children by ranking 175 countries based on when “childhood ends.” The rankings incorporate rates of early death, malnutrition, abbreviated education, entering the workforce, early marriage, early childbirth, or extreme violence.

UNICEF’s “Accountability for Children’s Rights” (2015) discusses different kinds of accountability, with a focus on “social accountability (people-led accountability initiatives)” and its potential to achieve results and equity for children.

United Nations’ “Sustainable Development Goals” is a set of 17 goals that have been adopted by nearly 200 countries and are designed to achieve shared outcomes related to economic development, health, and sustainability over a 30-year period. Nations are expected to meet more specific targets, which are stipulated under each goal. In many countries, state governments and philanthropy have directed policy and resources to support success toward meeting these goals. For example, under the broader goal of “Good health and well-being,” one of the target 2030 goals is to “reduce the global maternal mortality ratio to less than 70 per 100,000 live births.” Despite uneven progress across countries and goals, the first half of the initiative has brought major successes.

UK Youth Parliament has provided opportunities for 11-18 year-olds to use their elected voice to bring about social change since 1999. Members of Youth Parliament take part in an annual debate in the House of Commons chamber, chaired by the Speaker of the House of Commons, and debate five issues chosen by a ballot of young people from across the UK. The youth then vote to decide which two issues should become the UK Youth Parliament’s priority campaigns for the year ahead.

WORLD Policy Analysis Center at UCLA’s Fielding School of Public Health focuses on laws, policies, and programs that countries have in place which are tied to positive outcomes for children (such as paid parental leave and free and compulsory primary education.) Rather than using numerical measures, this analysis uses policy metrics to analyze various countries’ performances and compares them to others. Anecdotal evidence suggests that this focus on rights and policies associated with better outcomes holds promise to help motivate action by certain governments.

Additional Resources

Alliance for Justice (Holly B. Schadler),“The Connection: Strategies for Creating and Operating 501(c)(3)s, 501(c)(4)s, and Political Organizations,” (2018).

Alliance for Justice, Alliance for Justice Action Campaign, and Atlas Learning Project, “Primer on Social Welfare Organizations, Using 501(c)(4) Organizations for Good,” (2016).

The Annie E. Casey Foundation, “KIDS COUNT Data Center.”

The Annie E. Casey Foundation, “Race for Results.”

Brandeis University’s Institute for Child, Youth, and Family Policy and The Ohio State University’s Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity, “Child Opportunity Maps.”

Brookings (Bruce Katz and Ross Tilchin), “Investing in the Next Generation, A Bottom-Up Approach to Creating Better Outcomes for Children and Youth,” (2017).

Brookings (Susanna Loeb), “Accountability for early education—a different approach and some positive signs,” (2018).

California Department of Social Services, “The Lifting Children and Families Out of Poverty Task Force.”

Child Fund Alliance, “Toward a Safe World for Children: Child-Friendly Accountability in the Context of Target 16.2 of the SDGs.”

Child Trends, “Databank Indicators.”

Children’s Commissioner, Manaakitia A Tatou Tamariki, “Our Child-Centered Focus.”

Children’s Commissioner, Manaakitia A Tatou Tamariki, “Undertaking Child Impact Assessments in Aotearoa New Zealand Local Authorities: Evidence, practice, ideas,” (2009).

Children’s Defense Fund, Child Watch® Columns.

Children’s Defense Fund, “State of America’s Children 2017 Report,” (2017).

Choose Children 2018.

City of Santa Monica, “Youth Wellbeing Report Card,” (2014).

Collective Impact Forum.

Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, “Budgeting for the Next Generation: Does the Budget Process Prioritize Children?” (2018).

Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, “Budgeting for the Next Generation: Options to Improve Budgeting for Children,” (2018).

Dahlgaard, Jens Olav, “The Surprising Consequence of Lowering the Voting Age,” The Washington Post, (2018).

Ditkoff, Susan Wolf and Abe Grindle, “Audacious Philanthropy,” Harvard Business Review, (2017).


Every Child Matters Education Fund, “Winning on Child Care Through Elections.

Every Child Matters Resources.

First Focus, “Children’s Budget 2018,” (2018).

First Focus and Save the Children, “America’s Report Card 2012: Children in the U.S.,” (2012).

First Focus Campaign for Children, “Bill Tracker.”

First Focus Campaign for Children, “Children’s Bill of Rights.”

Foreign Policy, “GDP: A Brief History,” (2011).

Freedom to Marry, “The Roadmap to Victory.”

The Full Frame Initiative, “The Full Frame Approach and the Five Domains of Well-Being.”

Funding the Next Generation, “Creating Local Dedicated Funding Streams: A Guide to Planning a Local Initiative to Fund Services for Children, Youth and their Families,” (2018).

Lucile Packard Foundation for Children’s Health, “kidsdata.org.”

Lucile Packard Foundation for Children’s Health (Dowell Myers), “The New Importance of Children in America: A Wake-up Call for Policymakers” (2017).

The National Bureau of Economic Research (Hilary W. Hoynes and Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach), “Safety Net Investments in Children,” (2018).

National Commission on Children (final report), “Beyond Rhetoric: A New American Agenda for Children and Families,” (1991).

Nelson, Christopher, Anita Chandra, and Carolyn Miller, “Can Measures Change the World?” Stanford Social Innovation Review, (2018).

New Zealand Ministry of Social Development, Child Impact Assessment: Best Practice Guideline (example on page 32).

Office of the Minister for Children (Carmel Corrigan), “The Development and Implementation of Child Impact Statements in Ireland,” (2016).

Offord Centre for Child Studies, “Early Development Instrument.”

The Opportunity Atlas, a project of the Census Bureau with partners at Harvard and Brown Universities.

Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, “Better Life Index.”

Preston, Samuel H., “Children and the Elderly: Divergent Paths for America’s Dependents,” Demography, (1984).

Proteus Fund, “Hearts & Minds: The untold story of how philanthropy and the Civil Marriage Collaborative helped America embrace marriage equality,” (2015).

Public Health Advocates and League of California Cities’ Healthy Eating Active Living Cities Campaign.

So, Ivy and Alina Staskevicius, “Measuring the ‘impact’ in impact investing,” Harvard Business School, (2015).

Social Progress Imperative, “Social Progress Index.”

The Social Science Research Council, “Measure of America.”

UNICEF, “The State of the World’s Children 2017: Children in a Digital World,” (2017).

United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, Committee on the Rights of the Child, “Treaty-specific guidelines regarding the form and content of periodic reports to be submitted by States parties under Article 44, paragraph 1(b), of the Convention on the Rights of the Child,” (2015).

World Bank, “Women, Business and the Law.”