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Creating Opportunities for Families: A Two-Generation Approach

Last week, the Annie E. Casey Foundation released a policy report investigating ways to create opportunities for families – especially for those who are low-income. The report examines how low-income families with young children face extra barriers, like single parenting, difficulty speaking English, low education levels, lack of full-time employment, and being under 25 years old. These barriers can affect the early years of a child’s brain development.

Low-income families also face difficult challenges that make the already difficult task of raising a family that much harder. Low-income families are more likely to:

  • Have inflexible, unpredictable jobs that do not pay enough to support a family.
  • Lack access to high-quality, flexible and reliable early child care and education.
  • Experience stress at home, for both parents and kids.

The foundation suggests that programs aiding in combating the above difficulties often work in isolation from one another rather than working together to impact families in a positive way. By working without collaboration, the programs often pit the needs for parents’ and children against each other. Programs that aid low-income families should adopt a two-generation strategy that:

  1. Provide parents with multiple pathways to get family-supporting jobs and achieve financial stability.
  2. Ensure access to high-quality early childhood education and enriching elementary school experiences.
  3. Equip parents to better support their children socially and emotionally and to advcate for their kids’ education.

Much evidence has stressed the importance of increasing family income, early childhood education, and parents’ ability to nurture and advocate for their children. In order to support families in these goals programs must work for the whole family.  AECF suggests changes that policy-makers, businesses and community leaders can make to help families access the tools and develop the skills they need to thrive. These changes will link systems and programs with aims to achieve greater return on investment. The recommendations are:

  1. Create policies that equip parents and children with the income, tools and skills they need to succeed – as a family and individually.
  2. Put common sense into common practice by structuring public systems to respond to the realities facing today’s families.
  3. Use existing child, adult and neighborhood programs and platforms to build evidence for practical pathways out of poverty for entire families.

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