NLCI was founded in 1997 in response to the forecast growth in the Latino population, coupled with the dismal status facing Hispanic children. While there were organizations that championed children and others that supported Hispanics, there wasn’t a single organization dedicated to the needs of young Latinos. In fact, it was a response to the creation of the North American Free Trade Agreement and the lack of child-centered input to a national document developed by the leading Hispanic organizations. National leaders recognized that there wasn’t a children’s constituency represented in the NAFTA Latino Summit, although children represented the largest population group along the U.S.–Mexico border.
Hispanic organizations worried about workers and other issues, but children were not a part of any document or agreement. Additionally, discussions with other advocates highlighted the vacuum in which policies and programming for young Latinos existed. They were present, but not included. Action needed to be taken. A meeting was convened in Washington, D.C. in September 1994 to draft a national Latino children’s agenda—a statement of what needed to change for young Latinos. As a result, representatives of 46 regional and national organizations gathered to create the Agenda so that, in the future, everyone would be able to represent Latino children’s interests. The principles encompass elements from every aspect of Latino children’s lives−including health, environment, economic and educational conditions−and seek to promote initiatives and programs that create policies and services respectful of Latino values, traditions and language.
After two intensive days of work, Tipper Gore presented the Agenda at a breakfast. The Agenda is guided by a set of principles and a mission aimed at supporting the healthy and prosperous development of Latino children in the U.S. Since then over 150 national organizations and hundreds of individuals have endorsed the Agenda, and many cities and groups use it as a guide to assure that children’s interests are represented. The Institute continues to implement the Agenda by working with community and national partners to create initiatives and programs that build healthy communities.
After the creation of the agenda, a series of focus groups on the status of young Latinos were conducted in large and small cities across the U.S. The ethnographic information generated, provided the framework for the First National Summit on Young Latinos held in 1996. From that summit, it became clear that there was a need for a new organization that would focus solely on young Latinos, and this led to the establishment of the National Latino Children's Institute in 1997. Since then, NLCI has been creating targeted strategies, programs and initiatives to support Latino communities nationwide. It works with a diverse network of over 200 regional and local community based organizations in developing and implementing community action Initiatives to support Latino children across the United States and Puerto Rico.