PAE Student Advises Cambridge Kids’ Council on Vision for Future

July 7, 2009
by Lindsay Hodges Anderson

For a decade Amoretta Morris MPP 2009 has reached out to help children and youth – from runaways in Washington, D.C., to teen education activists in Boston. It was only natural then for Morris to continue helping youth for her Policy Analysis Exercise (PAE) this spring at Harvard Kennedy School.

Morris’ work in the HKS student-led Urban Policy Professional Interest Council connected her with the Cambridge Coordinating Council for Children, Youth and Families (Kids’ Council.) Chaired by Cambridge Mayor E. Denise Simmons, the Kids’ Council develops policies and programs to support Cambridge families. Morris wrote her PAE on a three-year strategic plan for the Council.

“Having just helped launch an inter-agency commission similar to the Kids’ Council in Washington, D.C., I was excited about the opportunity to work with the Cambridge body which is one of the oldest city-level collaborations of its kind,” said Morris. “Through meeting observation, stakeholder interviews and member surveys, I found the Council, and the city as a whole, lacked a clear, unified vision of what they wanted to achieve for children and families. And certain political and structural issues limited the Council’s impact on youth policy debates.”

Morris proposed some significant recommendations to the Council, including establishing citywide goals for children, youth and families with metrics to measure progress on those goals; publicly communicating those goals to the community via a bi-annual Children’s Report; using this data to drive Council meeting discussions and to make policy and resource allocation decisions to close the gap between desired outcomes and the status quo; and fully engaging youth, parents, residents and community partners in these discussions to gain a more accurate assessment of the status quo and build political will and ownership for proposed solutions.

“Since the Kids’ Council’s inception in 1991, one thing hasn’t changed – young people still need caring adults to support their development into successful adults,” writes Morris in her PAE conclusion. “Though the demographics of the city have shifted slightly, a bevy of new youth services entities have arisen and the economy has taken unexpected turns, Cambridge still needs a group of people to hold a clear vision for young people of all ages across the city.”

Even though Morris has graduated and is now a senior administrator in DC Public Schools, she has set up connections for the Council to continue receiving support from Harvard Kennedy School.

“After working so closely with the Council for nine months, I won’t be able to let those relationships flounder,” said Morris. “I intentionally connected the city to the HKS community and national youth policy resources such as the Forum for Youth Investment so they could continue to build their capacity after my departure.

“The Kennedy School gave me greater perspective about leadership and management in the public sector. Specifically, the school helped me broaden my experience as a local policymaker.”

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Kids' Council

The Cambridge Kids' Council is dedicated to improving the quality of life for children, youth and their families through making policy recommendations and setting up programs and services. Photo of Kids' Council event provided.

Percentage of children in poverty in Cambridge. Graphic from Amoretta Morris' PAE paper.

Amoretta Morris

Mayoral Staffer Bridget Rodriguez, Amoretta Morris, Cambridge Mayor E. Denise Simmons and Kids' Council Director Mary Wong (left to right). Photo provided.