Youth Engagement

Every issue -- whether poverty, homelessness, climate change, racial injustice, gun violence, healthcare, or education, severely impacts Houston's children, who are some of our most vulnerable residents. Today's children have faced unprecedented circumstances and have witnessed the horrors of school shootings, police brutality, global pandemics, and natural disasters, all within the last few years. The Mayor's Office of Education and Youth Engagement works to engage youth in efforts to build a better future, one based not only on self-determination, but also on a society that recognizes the inherent worth of every child regardless of race, socioeconomic status, gender, religion, sexual orientation, or ability.

The Mayor's Office of Education and Youth Engagement focuses on engaging youth in meaningful conversations that prioritize the inclusion of their voices in the city's initiatives. The goal is to serve as a catalyst for advancing children's rights and fostering youth engagement throughout the city to ensure the rights of every child are fully recognized and integrated into the fabric of our government policies, budgets, programs, and services.

The office is actively working to raise awareness about the state of children's rights in Houston by establishing critical partnerships and staying up-to-date with the city's policy changes and youth programs. By prioritizing youth engagement and advancing children's rights, we can create a city that cherishes and supports its youngest members.

Child Friendly Cities Initiative

The Mayor's Office of Education and Youth Engagement manages the Child Friendly Cities Initiative, a UNICEF initiative that provides a framework for municipal governments to further the realization of children's rights at the local level using the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) as its foundation. The CRC is an international treaty for the protection and fulfillment of children's rights. In July 2023, the City of Houston became the first Child-Friendly City in the USA, see below the process completed to receive this designation.

Aug 2020

Partnership Formed with UNICEF USA. The City of Houston partnered with UNICEF USA to launch the Child Friendly Cities Initiative in the United States. Houston emerged as a trailblazer under visionary leadership, pledging to be among the first cities in the U.S. to achieve the esteemed child-friendly designation by UNICEF.

Aug 2020

Assessing the State of Children’s Rights in Houston. The Mayor's Office of Education and Youth Engagement conducted community and government assessments to assess the state of children’s rights. This situational analysis compiled and analyzed data to identify key issue areas impacting Houston’s children and youth.

Aug 2021

Developing a Strategy with a Local Action Plan. Through conversations involving decision-makers, children and youth, parents, and service providers, The Mayor's Office of Education and Youth Engagement developed a local action plan for Houston that established priorities and strategies aimed at enhancing the well-being of the city’s young people.

Aug 2022

City of Houston Becomes the First U.S. City to Become a CFCI Candidate. City of Houston was the first city in the United States to become a candidate for UNICEF Child Friendly City recognition. This designation reaffirmed Houston’s dedication to placing the needs of children first, listening to youth’s challenges and recommendations, and advocating for and protecting child rights.

Aug 2023

City of Houston Becomes the First UNICEF Child-Friendly City in the U.S. The city implemented the strategies delineated in the action plan, including developing a system of collaboration to strengthen children’s rights in Houston. The City of Houston received a positive evaluation of the city's local action plan implementation and became the first city in the nation to receive the formal child-friendly designation by UNICEF.

For more information about the Child Friendly Cities Initiative or to receive emails with updates on the progress of the initiative, learn more about upcoming events, training workshops, and volunteer opportunities, please subscribe to the initiative’s newsletter.

Child Rights Education

The City of Houston continues to be a national leader in children’s rights and is excited to be the first Child Friendly City in the United States. Thus far, the city has demonstrated a strong commitment to meaningful youth participation in city government and to developing effective systems of support for children’s safety and well-being.

In 2023, The Mayor’s Office of Education and Youth Engagement partnered with UNICEF USA to host a child rights training. The training is part of the Child Friendly City advocacy series focused on elevating youth voice and increasing civic participation. During the training, attendees learned about: the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, how to use a child rights-based approach to impact decision-making, and how to advocate for youth issues. Interested parties can view the training recording below.

Child Rights Training

Child Friendly Priorities for Houston

The scorecards below represent the findings from the Child Friendly Cities Initiative (CFCI) Community Assessments, where 219 City of Houston (COH) youth, ages 13 to 18 years, assessed their community conditions to determine the status of children’s rights in the city. The scorecards range from a low of 1 to a high of 10 and summarize the results across the five CFCI goal areas. Some of the lowest scorecards were determined to be priorities for change in Houston's CFCI Action Plan.

Assessment Scorecard

Youth Participation and Voice

Over the past two decades, policy and practice stakeholders have recognized that young people should have a range of opportunities for meaningful participation and decision-making influence within the systems and institutions that affect them. The City of Houston has made youth voice a priority and our office creates equitable systems that represent & include youth voices! By empowering youth and fostering their unique talents, we are building a city that is safe, equitable, just, inclusive & youth-led. Here is a selected list of channels to make your voice heard: