Become a UNICEF Child Friendly City in the United States

In partnership with UNICEF USA, a cohort of six has begun the ambitious two-year transformative process toward recognition as a UNICEF Child Friendly City or County: Decatur, Georgia; Houston, Texas; Johnson City, Tennessee; Minneapolis, Minnesota; Prince George's County, Maryland and San Francisco, California.

The process of becoming a UNICEF Child Friendly City (or County) is determined by local context, such as political environment, population size and available resources. Leaders across each pilot city or county, including young leaders, work together through a CFCI task force to take the following key steps:

  1. Conduct a local situation analysis of child well-being, including children and young people in the process

  2. Based on the findings of the situation analysis, work across generations to develop a local action plan for children 

  3. Support youth and community-led projects 

  4. Implement the plan with relevant local stakeholders, including children and young people themselves

  5. Monitor and evaluate the results and adjust the plan as necessary

After a city has conducted a situational analysis and developed a local action plan approved by UNICEF USA, they can become a Child Friendly City Candidate. After the action plan has been implemented and its accomplishments evaluated, the Child Friendly City Candidate can apply to be officially recognized as a UNICEF Child Friendly City for a set period of time.

While each community’s version of the initiative may look different, each city must meet the following criteria — also required of global CFCIs — to be officially recognized as a UNICEF USA Child Friendly City:

  • results for children within the scope of several goal areas to ensure a comprehensive child rights approach

  • meaningful and inclusive child participation through established mechanisms, such as child and youth councils throughout all the phases of the CFCI process

  • demonstrated dedication to eliminating discrimination against children and young people in policies and actions by the local government, including in CFCI

UNICEF has over 75 years of experience protecting children 

Throughout the CFCI partnership, UNICEF USA provides participating cities with:

  • technical expertise

  • convening power

  • the equity of a global brand

  • a diverse network of dedicated volunteers

  • global and national networking opportunities 

In addition to engaging its CFCI pilot cities and county, UNICEF USA is building a national CFCI Learning Community of city officials, subject matter experts and advocates to exchange resources and learning opportunities to put children first in local governance and decision making.

UNICEF also offers a free self-led course describing the core components and steps that communities can take to become child friendly.

Being a Child Friendly City is not an end goal but rather a continuous practice

CFCI recognition in the United States is not an accreditation model. Rather, it is a transformative process through which local governments and stakeholders commit to advancing child rights.

Over time, the idea is for the process in each city to evolve and develop to protect children against new challenges. CFCI is not about creating perfect cities — and should never be considered an approval of the human rights situation of the city as a whole. CFCI is about improving children’s well-being and building the better future they deserve.

For more information, resources and case studies about the global UNICEF Child Friendly Cities Initiative, join the CFCI Facebook Group, email advocacy@unicefusa.org or visit childfriendlycities.org.