City of Houston Recognized as the First UNICEF Child Friendly City in the United States of America
Ahead of International Youth Day and in partnership with UNICEF USA, Houston’s designation as a UNICEF Child Friendly City reaffirms its commitment to building better communities for children and youth
NEW YORK (August 9, 2023) – In advance of International Youth Day (August 12), an annual observance to celebrate young peoples’ voices, actions and meaningful, equitable engagement, the City of Houston in partnership with UNICEF USA, is proud to announce it has officially become the first Child Friendly City in the United States, joining global entities in over 40 countries and 3,500 municipalities. This momentous occasion reaffirms Houston’s dedication to be responsive to the needs of children and youth and showcases Houstonians’ active commitment to protecting children’s rights.
“Receiving this national distinction is a humbling moment for the City of Houston. We appreciate the robust and comprehensive child rights framework provided by UNICEF USA and their unwavering support throughout the process,” said Mayor Sylvester Turner. “We are hopeful this will inspire many other U.S. cities to create awareness of children’s rights, strengthen support systems for youth and include them in the decision-making of their city.”
Originally created in 1996, UNICEF’s Child Friendly Cities Initiative (CFCI) uses the framework of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child to build a roadmap for establishing safer, more just, equitable, inclusive, and child-responsive cities and communities around the world. In 2019, the partnership between UNICEF USA and the City of Houston began when Mayor Sylvester Turner became the first mayor in the United States to sign UNICEF’s global Child Friendly Cities Manifesto. The partnership persisted despite the difficulties presented during the COVID-19 pandemic and gained traction with virtual events that increased the accessibility and visibility of the initiative for many Houstonians.
“Nearly three years ago, the City of Houston, in partnership with UNICEF USA, embarked on its journey toward building safer, more equitable and inclusive communities for children through the UNICEF Child Friendly Cities Initiative,” said UNICEF USA President & CEO, Michael J. Nyenhuis. “We are thrilled to celebrate this historic milestone as Houston is recognized as the first UNICEF Child Friendly City in the nation, devoted to prioritizing children's participation, mental health resource accessibility, emergency preparedness and creating long-lasting impact.”
This initiative is led by the Mayor’s Office of Education and Youth Engagement, who worked collaboratively with city leaders, government agencies, service providers and, most importantly, youth and families to achieve this historic designation. The office helped secure this recognition by conducting a situational analysis on the state of children’s rights in the city, successfully creating and implementing the Houston Child Friendly City Action Plan, and releasing those achievements in the Action Plan Report. The City of Houston made significant progress addressing mental health, emergency preparedness, resource accessibility and civic engagement. Activities included mental health trainings for over 700 service providers, an emergency preparation communications campaign, and an upcoming podcast on children’s rights. According to an external evaluator designated by UNICEF USA, the City of Houston demonstrated remarkable engagement, perseverance, and commitment and recommended that the City of Houston be awarded Child Friendly Cities Initiative status.
Gaining this status would not have been possible without collaboration between nearly 10 city departments, including the Mayor’s Office of Human Trafficking and Domestic Violence, the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities, the Office of Resilience and Sustainability, the Houston Parks and Recreation Department, the Mayor’s Office of Complete Communities, and the Mayor’s Office of Trade and International Affairs and more than 30 community organizations that invested in advocating and supporting children’s rights.
The City of Houston is committed to being a national leader in creating inclusive and equitable opportunities for young people across the board. Houston was the first, and remains the largest, city to have endorsed the Children’s Bill of Rights in Sports, developed by the Aspen Institute through its Project Play initiative and supported by UNICEF USA. Furthermore, children and youth are highlighted in the city’s Resilient Houston strategy and One Safe Houston initiative. As a Child Friendly City, Houston hopes to utilize the newly expanded Mayor’s Office of Education and Youth Engagement to continue to connect young people to the many youth supporting programs in the City of Houston including Hire Houston Youth, Out 2 Learn, among others.
However, the support felt the most was that of Houstonians, young and old. It was imperative to hear from community voices and involve them in the implementation needed to make Houston a more child-friendly place. Youth’s dynamic energy invigorated the initiative and the participation of faith leaders, educators, children advocates, and parents strengthened the success of the city’s efforts.
“As a Houston CFCI Youth Leader, I, alongside my peers, work towards developing a more Child Friendly City because it is an exciting challenge with significant implications,” said Houston ISD Student Richard. “This recognition serves as motivation and empowerment for Houston youth and youth all over the world to stand up for our rights and create a better tomorrow.”
To get involved in local CFCI Houston efforts, sign up for the CFCI Houston newsletter here. For more information about Child Friendly Cities Initiative in the United States, visit www.unicefusa.org/mission/usa/childfriendlycities.
About UNICEF USA
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) works in more than 190 countries and territories to pursue a more equitable world for every child. UNICEF has helped save more children’s lives than any other humanitarian organization, by providing health care and immunizations, safe water and sanitation, nutrition, education, emergency relief and more.
UNICEF USA advances the global mission of UNICEF by rallying the American public to support the world’s most vulnerable children. Together, we are working toward a world that upholds the rights of all children and helps every child thrive. For more information, visit www.unicefusa.org.
For more information please contact:
Nina Marie Costa, UNICEF USA, (212) 922-2581, NMCosta@unicefusa.org
About the Mayor’s Office of Education and Youth Engagement
Public education is a human right, the great social equalizer, and a key to a prosperous community. Mayor Sylvester Turner believes that each generation of children should be assured a better life and education. Through collaboration, communication, and coordination, the Mayor’s Office of Education and Youth Engagement strives to ensure this goal for all families in Houston by promoting access to equitable education and opportunities. For more information, visit www.houstontx.gov/education and email us at email@example.com.
For more information please contact:
Mary Benton, (832) 393-0830, Mary.Benton@houstontx.gov