Elizabeth Gaines


Senior Fellow

Elizabeth helps executive and legislative policymakers improve youth policy in communities and states around the country. Over the past decade she has developed and grown the Children’s Cabinet Network and is recognized as the nation’s leading expert on children’s cabinets and councils. Overseeing the Forum’s state and local policy efforts allows her to stay abreast of the innovations occurring around the country, and share those ideas with other local, state and national organizations. From this unique vantage point she has worked side by side with policy leaders to develop tools and techniques to improve their use of data, increase their policy alignment, and more efficiently apply resources toward greater impact. Her publications include The Adding It Up Guide to Mapping Public Resources for Children, Youth and Families, and the Forum series of papers on state children’s cabinets and councils. More recently she co-authored How Public Policy Can Support Collective Impact paper with FSG.  

By the time she joined the Forum in 2005, Elizabeth had already built a career advocating for youth – a commitment that began when she spent seven years leading after-school and community-based programs for youth at the Atwood Community Center in Madison, Wis. She later served as youth policy analyst for Citizens for Missouri’s Children, a child and youth advocacy organization, where she lobbied state lawmakers, convened a youth development network and led the “Invest in Missouri’s Children” Campaign to secure tobacco settlement dollars for child and youth development activities.

A native of St. Louis, Mo., she attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison.