Breaking the Cycle of Poverty by Helping Kids and Their Parents Succeed

Posted October 20, 2014, By the Annie E. Casey Foundation

Children’s success in school is closely tied to their parents’ ability to provide for them emotionally and economically. For the past several years, the Center for Working Families Inc., Educare Atlanta and Dunbar Elementary School have been taking advantage of their proximity — and the fact that they serve some of the same families — to help kids and their parents succeed together. This coordinated approach emphasizes three core components: employment and training; high-quality early child care and elementary education; and increasing parents’ involvement in their children’s education, as well as their ability to support their kids’ healthy development.

This approach has already seen some success: In the first two years after Educare Atlanta opened in 2012, the Center for Working Families saw a 33 percent rise in employment and an average weekly wage increase of $35 among the Educare Atlanta parents using center-provided child care subsidies. The children of those parents outperformed their peers in reading when they moved into kindergarten.

Despite those acccomplishments, both entities recognized the need for further collaboration so that the 126 families they serve could achieve even greater results. This year, they have taken a number of steps to better align their efforts. Leaders and frontline staff from the center and Educare Atlanta have participated in multiple training sessions that have allowed them to build relationships with one another, better understand the roles each of them plays in supporting families and streamline their processes for enrollment and service delivery. And in their joint biannual meetings with families, center and Educare Atlanta staff now use a new tool called the Atlanta Bridge to help them asses, together, where a family is in terms of stability, well-being, education and training, employment and financial management — and identify goals for each area. Educare Atlanta has also committed to using the same data management system as the center to further facilitate communication about the families they both serve.

As some of the first Educare Atlanta children are now in elementary school, the partners have extended their network to include Dunbar Elementary, which together with Educare Atlanta makes up the Dunbar Learning Complex. Educare Atlanta and Dunbar Elementary are aligning their educational programs to keep their kids on track to be proficient readers by the end of third grade. The elementary school’s involvement in the partnership also helps ensure parents continue making progress as their kids grow.