Children's Funding Project

The Children’s Funding Project is a hub for leaders in cities and counties around the country who are interested in increasing and improving the return on their investments in children, youth and families. The needs of vulnerable families are increasing, opportunity gaps between rich and poor children are widening, and federal and state investments in services for children and youth are declining. These factors increase advocates’, policymakers’ and funders’ need for access to deeper and better information and analysis on their collective investments in children and youth.

Currently, providers of services spend too much time trying to find and make sense of what funding is available and how it can be used. The Children’s Funding Project seeks to consolidate and strengthen the guidance, examples, tools and strategic support available to local leaders to analyze funding sources, identify opportunities for better alignment, generate new funding when needed, and measure investments based on evidence of what is working.


Our inaugural discussion paper, Funding Brighter Futures: How Local Governments are Enhancing Children’s Funding, outlines the four broad policy levers localities are using to secure and expand local funding for children and youth.






Investing in the next generation: A bottom-up approach to creating better outcomes for children and youth In Investing in the Next Generation, Bruce Katz and Ross Tilchin, both of The Brookings Institution, discuss the role of "new localism" in providing the "cradle to career" interventions necessary to ensure successful outcomes for America's children and youth. Katz and Tilchin first walk us through the evidence supporting increased access to supplemental programs and services to low- and middle-income families as a tool for improving community mobility and reducing the achievement gap, and then turn to the grim reality of the dwindling federal and state budget allocations for such supplemental programs for children and youth. To rectify the disparity between increased need for child and youth programming with the drop-off in federal and state funding, Katz and Tilchin suggest turning to local-level solutions, and provide guidance for communities looking to take this step.

This article by Bruce Katz and Ross Tilchin was produced by the Brookings Institution with significant contribution from Elizabeth Gaines of the Forum for Youth Investment. It promotes the strategies of the Forum's Children's Funding Project.














These levers are:

  • Find: Cities and counties must develop the capacity to rigorously identify, track, analyze, and forecast funding sources and funding needs for services that support children and youth.

  • Align: To address gaps and overlaps in the existing funding landscape, local governments must be prepared to make adjustments in how funding is allocated, managed, and accounted for within agencies.

  • Generate: Localities must assess need, explore feasibility, facilitate community engagement, launch campaigns, and administer new locally-generated funds to address gaps in meeting the needs of all children and youth.

  • Evaluate: As communities do the hard work to find, align and generate new dedicated funding streams for children and youth services, they must also consider methods to measure the impact of their investments.

We hope to provide more consistent and proactive research, training, and networking support to the growing network of cities and counties interested in building their capacity. Through partnerships with national, state and local leaders passionate about, and experienced in, the various aspects of finding, aligning, generating, and evaluating investments, we will advance the growing need for this approach. We will provide local team support throughout the process while tracking and analyzing ongoing community financing efforts. Furthermore, we will inform and instruct local government leaders, advocates, and practitioner around the techniques associated with the four funding levers described above. 

For more information about the Children’s Funding Project or how your city or county can get started, contact Elizabeth Gaines, senior fellow, Forum for Youth Investment,


Our research indicates that these places across the country have made strides to secure local funding.

Further detail on each community can be seen in this chart.


Click here to enlarge this map.

To date more than thirty cities and counties have voter-approved dedicated children’s funds. The Forum continues to update and report on localities around the country that have launched such funds to support services to children, youth and families. More places will be added as new initiatives emerge.