Q: Which level of government is responsible for keeping our kids safe and families strong?

Your question is excellent and the answer depends on who you ask and where you live. While every elected official on every level of government would say that our kids are a priority, the city, county and state budgets and missions may not quite reflect that. Yet.

The truth is that most of the nation is only just now waking up to the costly epidemic of adverse childhood experiences—which means children living in households where adults misuse substances, are threatening or violent, have untreated mental health challenges, are abusive and neglectful, are dissolving marriages or are incarcerated.

For example, some city governments are mandated to support financial administration, collecting revenue from various sources, giving permits, and supporting the local police, fire stations, parks, libraries and offering some small grants for youth activities.  You won’t see a “Dept. of Family and Community Resilience” funded to track the quality and quantity of family-friendly services shown to keep kids safe from adversity and families strong.

County government may see themselves as providing behavioral health and elder care through various programs, along with other services to complement the city. Most likely there is no County-run “Dept. of Childhood Safety and Resilience” (distinct from child welfare).  Depending on the state, there may be a county-based child welfare system but their job, primarily, is responding to the aftermath the abuse or neglect.

Have I confused you enough?

Our challenge is working with representatives from state, county and city government to advocate for them taking a proactive role in ensuring the safety, health and resilience of all their young residents and parents. This will be a long-term process, though if you’re lucky you may find lawmakers open to discussing a new role for local government.  There are amazing allies out there and they need us to push disruption and innovation.  It all starts with a question: –“Can we envision a way for local government to take a key role in securing the safety of all our children?”