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The Federal Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA), as amended, established the Council as an independent body to coordinate federal programs related to delinquency prevention and missing and exploited children. In accordance with the Federal Advisory Committee Act, the Council holds public meetings up to four times a year in which members discuss activities to facilitate and support cross-agency coordination.

The Council's chair is the U.S. Attorney General. Its Vice-Chair is the Administrator of the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP).

In accordance with the JJDPA, the Council is currently comprised of nine ex officio members and their designees, as well as ten non-federal practitioner members who are named by the President and Congress. The ex officio members are the Attorney General; the Secretaries of Health and Human Services, Labor, Education, Homeland Security and Housing and Urban Development; the Administrator of OJJDP; the Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy; and the Chief Executive Officer of the Corporation for National and Community Service. In addition, four affiliate federal agencies are represented on the Council: the Departments of Agriculture, Defense, Interior, through their respective Secretaries and designees, and HHS' Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), through its Administrator. The President may also designate other key federal officials with significant decision-making authority to serve on the Council.