Breaking the Poverty Cycle, Two Generations at a Time

More than 12% of people, and 17.5% of children, in the United States live at or below the Federal Poverty line for income. While many of these individuals are facing situational poverty brought on by life events such as employment loss, sickness, divorce, or loss of a spouse, a significant number of individuals face what is known as intergenerational poverty. This type of poverty exists when conditions leading to poverty exist for such a long period of time that they are passed on from one generation to the next. One of the most common risk factors of intergenerational poverty is a lack of adequate education, which in turn leads to employment instability. When children are raised in homes that frequently experience poverty it can reduce their chances of receiving a quality education, perpetuating the cycle.

Many communities have programs to address poverty in the short term, and even in the long term. But these programs often only focus on one population at a time. They may focus on the parents through job skills programs of financial mentoring. Or they may target children by expanding early childhood education and other academic intervention. The weakness of these models is that the needs of the parents and the needs of the children impact each other and so addressing them separately can be ineffective. This is why a number of communities and organizations have moved to a two-generation model.

Two-generation programs, often simply abbreviated 2Gen, are designed to focus on both the needs of the children and the needs of the parents in a way that the provided services are coordinated and complementary. There is not any one successful model for 2Gen programs. Communities across the country are implementing and running 2Gen models that vary in structure, funding, and stated goals. However, they all share the common thread of attempting to break the cycle of poverty by addressing the needs of a whole family.

2Gen in Action

One example of the 2Gen vision in action is Career Advance Program (CAP) in Tulsa, Oklahoma. CAP is designed to address the needs of an entire family by providing education opportunities for both the parents and the children. Parents are given life skills and job training opportunities that can potentially lead to better paying and more stable employment. The children are provided early childhood education opportunities through a preschool program that is coordinated with the parent’s school schedule so that parents are able to attend school without needing to arrange childcare. CAP also provides ESL and parenting skills classes to help provide families with all of the skills they need to thrive.

Atlantic Civic Site is a public-private partnership that is aimed at addressing education and economic needs of low-income neighborhoods through a 2Gen model. Like CAP, Atlantic Civic Site provides job training and preschool opportunities in a coordinated way. However, they also include pediatric health services, including preventative health services, in the list of resources available to help children and their families get out of poverty. This 2Gen program has led to a 40% increase in preschoolers meeting or exceeding literacy expectations and a 35% increase in parent employment in the served populations.

The Valley Settlement Project of Aspen and Glenwood Springs, Colorado is actually a series of interrelated 2Gen programs that are designed to help immigrant families thrive in their community. Valley Settlement programs include parent mentoring, adult education, family support teams, English literacy, and a fleet of mobile preschools. These mobile preschools, known as El Busesito Preschool, are housed in buses so that the preschools can be taken to low income neighborhoods and provide bilingual early childhood education to nearly 100 preschool aged children so that they are ready to start kindergarten.

Starting a 2Gen Program

In order to promote the expansion of these 2Gen programs, the United States Department of Education (ED) released a toolkit entitled 2GEN TOOLS TO HELP CHILDREN & FAMILIES THRIVE. This document is designed to provide organizations and government entities the information that they need in order to implement and facilitate a 2Gen program that meets the needs of their community.

Though program details will vary from community to community, according to the ED toolkit, a successful 2Gen program will be based on five key components.

  1. Early childhood education such as Head Start or other preschool programs
  2. Postsecondary and employment pathways such as community colleges and other skill certification opportunities
  3. Social capital development through family networks, coaching, and cohort strategies
  4. Economic assets including housing, transportation, and public supports
  5. Health and wellbeing through access to mental, physical, and behavioral health resources

2Gen programs are another example of communities working to address the needs of vulnerable individuals by looking at the needs of the whole person and not just individual symptoms. These programs are often very complex and require a high degree of coordination and communication between program managers, care coordinators, service providers, and the individuals themselves. A truly effective 2Gen program requires the technology infrastructure to keep it running smoothly. This includes having the ability to submit and track referrals, create comprehensive client records, and track program eligibility and compliance.

Eccovia Solutions is proud to partner with communities who use the ClientTrack platform to make their 2Gen programs successful.

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