In April 1991, the Action for Children Commission was created by Governor Arne H. Carlson to study the lives of young Minnesotans, develop a vision of what their lives should be like, and make recommendations to help the state achieve that vision.The creation of a children's cabinet was one of the recommendations of the Action for Children Commission in its report, Kids Can't Wait (Feb. 1992). The Children's Cabinet assumed responsibility for implementing the recommendations and strategies in partnership with Action for Children and its Youth Advisory Council.
The 1993 Legislature formalized the Children's Cabinet's membership and provided $400,000 in funding over the biennium. Legislation passed in 1993 also required several Children's Cabinet departments to report back to the Legislature in 1995 with a joint study on an integrated children's services database.
In May 1994, the Minnesota Legislature enacted legislation requiring the Children's Cabinet to study ways to promote, support, protect and nurture the family, and recommend changes in public and private programs and state laws to encourage family preservation.
The Children's Cabinet was largely inactive under the Ventura and Pawlenty administrations. Governor Mark Dayton reestablished the Cabinet in 2011 with fewer members. In April 2013, he appointed Marcie Jeffreys as the head of the Children's Cabinet.
In 2019, Governor Tim Walz created the Governor's Children's Cabinet Advisory Council to work closely with the Children's Cabinet on identifying opportunities for, and barriers to, collaboration and coordination among child development services targeting children and families, and meeting the basic needs of Minnesota families.
The Legislature, in 2021, directed the cabinet to "develop recommendations on the governance of programs relating to early childhood development, care, and learning, including how such programs could be consolidated into an existing state agency or a new state Department of Early Childhood" (see Laws of Minn. 2021, 1st Sp. Sess., chap. 7, art. 14, sec. 22). The cabinet's report is due by February 1, 2022.