Last week MCA’s Senior Policy Analyst, Rita Furlow, and I had the opportunity to attend the inaugural Children’s Cabinet meeting, convened by Governor Mills. This was the first time the Children’s Cabinet has met since 2010, when it submitted a report summarizing its work to the transition team as the outgoing administration. The reconvening of the Children’s Cabinet signals that cross-system collaboration to improve the health and well-being of Maine kids will be a priority in our state.
The Children’s Cabinet is comprised of Commissioners of the Departments of Health and Human Services, Education, Labor, Public Safety, and Corrections, in addition to the Governor’s office and various staff. When the Cabinet was first established, its work began with four measures of success in mind: one, that Maine children succeed in school, that our youth are prepared to enter the workforce, that families are living safe and healthy lives and that Maine communities are keeping children and families at the heart of all their decisions.
In her opening statement, Governor Mills highlighted the key goals and initiatives of this newly reinstated Cabinet:
We are recommitting our state government to making our children a top priority and we’ve set two key goals for the Children’s Cabinet to work on over the next few years.
First, creating a comprehensive early child care and early education system in Maine that targets kids before they enter school. The goal there is to employ a two-generational strategy by addressing the needs of children and their parents.
The Children’s Cabinet will consider how to expand quality home visiting, how to improve the quality of childcare and early childhood programs, how to align systems, including workforce opportunities across state agencies, maximize state and federal funds, and direct early funds toward children and families who need it the most.
Secondly, we are going to improve access to community-based services and improve programming for vulnerable, at-risk older youth and their families, especially older youth at-risk of being involved in the juvenile justice system, or experiencing homelessness, or those in the child welfare system.
After the Governor’s opening remarks, the Children’s Cabinet reviewed Maine KIDS COUNT data provided by MCA’s Research Associate, Helen Hemminger. The summary included the latest data related to child poverty, developmental screening, teen suicide and youth homelessness, highlighting trends and areas of concern.
Our hope is that through cross-system collaboration, with specific goals and initiatives, informed by good data and best practice, the Children’s Cabinet can once again come together to improve the health and well-being of Maine’s children and youth, ensuring they can reach their full potential, and a bright future for Maine.