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Big Name Support Gives Yarmuth Boost in Call for White House Office on Children and Youth

Senators Kennedy and Dodd, Chairmen Miller & Kildee among those joining Yarmuth

(Washington, DC) Congressman John Yarmuth (KY-3) added some big name support in his efforts to encourage President Obama to issue an executive order that would create a White House Office on Children and Youth.  Joining Congressman Yarmuth in calling for the creation of central body to oversee all federal youth services are Senators Chris Dodd, Edward Kennedy, and Debbie Stabenow, as well as House Education & Labor Committee Chairman George Miller and House Subcommittee on Early Childhood Education Chairman Dale Kildee.

Yarmuth first called for the Office’s creation on January 26 and received word shortly thereafter that the White House was considering the proposal.  The executive order would be similar to legislation authored by the Louisville lawmaker in 2008, which would create a continuum of care for youths in need rather than forcing them to seek assistance from numerous disjointed providers in critical areas, including health, education, and foster care.  Currently, these services are administered through more than 300 programs under the jurisdiction of a dozen separate federal agencies.

A text of the letter can be found below.

Dear Mr. President,

We are writing to respectfully request that you create a White House Office on Children and Youth to promote interagency coordination and collaboration on the many issues impacting children and youth today.  The research is clear that children’s experiences in the first five years of life are especially critical to their development and future success.  Family supports, health, nutrition, housing, and early learning opportunities all combine to contribute to a child’s development.  Research also demonstrates that transitions later in a child’s life are essential to positive life outcomes.   Our nation’s children and youth policies should be better coordinated to ensure that investments in children from birth to age 24 are optimally designed to improve the well-being of children and youth in this country.  We believe a White House Office on Children and Youth can accomplish this goal.

The diversity of federal programs focused on improving outcomes for children and youth reflects the many factors that contribute to a child’s well-being from infancy through the transition into adulthood.  We know that cognitive, social, and emotional development, as well as health, nutrition, and other support services, are essential to school readiness and academic achievement.  We also know that in addition to school readiness, youth need guidance and support to ensure smooth transitions into adulthood.  Unfortunately, the numerous federal programs addressing these issues are seldom coordinated effectively, if at all. Programs addressing the needs of overlapping populations of children and youth exist within multiple federal agencies, including Health and Human Services, Education, Defense, Justice, Labor and Agriculture.

As members of the committees with primary jurisdiction for the education and care of children and youth, we have initiated several efforts to improve program coordination through various legislative reauthorizations.  The Improving Head Start for School Readiness Act of 2007 authorized the formation of state advisory councils on early care and education, which are responsible for ensuring coordination and efficiency among programs affecting children and youth.  The Head Start law also required greater coordination between Head Start and local education agencies. It is vital to continue such coordination in order to achieve the best outcomes for our children and youth.    

We encourage the federal government to establish a White House Office on Children and Youth to facilitate improved outcomes for children and youth by pursuing four primary goals: 

  1. Structuring and managing coordination among federal programs impacting children and youth.
  2. Making recommendations for the development of an overarching strategy to improve outcomes for children and youth.
  3. Ensuring the implementation of coordination efforts
  4. Acting as an advocate for children and youth within the federal government.

Mr. President, we ask you to move quickly to make this proposal a reality.  Interagency coordination and collaboration through a dedicated management structure is vital to establish and implement a long-term vision and plan for the success of children and youth nationwide, today and in future generations.

Sincerely,

Sen. Christopher J. Dodd
Chairman Senate Subcommittee on Children and Families

Sen. Edward M. Kennedy
Chairman Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions

Sen. Debbie Stabenow
Member of Congress

Rep. George Miller
Chairman House Committee on Education and Labor

Rep. Dale E. Kildee
Chairman House Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary and Secondary Education

Rep. John Yarmuth
Member of Congress