The commissioners and directors of New York State's health, education and human services agencies recognized that to improve outcomes in each of the areas for which they had responsibility, it was necessary to shift to a new paradigm characterized by prevention, early intervention and family/youth involvement. Further, to increase the effectiveness of the various systems, the agencies embarked on an effort to develop a common set of measurable goals and objectives that lead to improved outcomes for children and families. From these actions, the Council on Children and Families and its 12 member agencies developed New York State Touchstones.
The Touchstones framework is organized by six major life areas: Economic Security; Physical and Emotional Health; Education; Citizenship; Family; and Community. Each life area has a set of goals and objectives-representing expectations about the future, and a set of indicators-reflecting the status of children and families. The goals and objectives are integrally related to each other and call for comprehensive strategies to address any single aspect of children and family well-being. The indicators are presented by life area rather than by specific objectives. This was done, in part, because some indicators are associated with more than one objective and some objectives do not have an indicator currently available.
Touchstones is a tool to help guide State and local efforts. The common set of goals and objectives cuts across all service systems and allows individuals and organization with diverse missions to come together to improve conditions for children and families. Touchstones data can help focus planning and decision-making by providing an overview of the well-being of children, youth and families; comparing their current status to that of the past; describing changes over time; and providing benchmarks. The Touchstones framework will continually be reassessed and refined to ensure it is the best tool available for focusing efforts toward improving outcomes for children and families and for charting progress over time.