Adapting the Model: Successful Two-Generation Program Sheds its Residential Approach

Posted January 26, 2019
Mom and infant child

Photo credit: Chiaki Kawajiri for the Annie E. Casey Foundation

What hap­pens when a suc­cess­ful res­i­den­tial pro­gram for sin­gle moth­ers and their chil­dren tries expand­ing with­out one of its key fea­tures? The answer, artic­u­lat­ed in a new study fund­ed by the Annie E. Casey Foun­da­tion, spurs even more ques­tions — plus impor­tant insights — about two-gen­er­a­tion programming.

Endi­cott Col­lege Boston is the urban cam­pus of Endi­cott Col­lege, based in Bev­er­ly, Mass­a­chu­setts. The Jere­mi­ah Pro­gram, based in Min­neso­ta, is a nation­al leader in the two-gen­er­a­tion field. While geo­graph­i­cal­ly sep­a­rat­ed, both orga­ni­za­tions share a sense of pur­pose: enabling at-risk sin­gle moth­ers to get a degree and improve their life chances.

This com­mon focus led Endi­cott and Jere­mi­ah to join forces in Boston — but with a twist. Giv­en the city’s high hous­ing costs, Jeremiah’s tra­di­tion­al approach — offer­ing fam­i­ly hous­ing with coach­ing, child care and oth­er sup­port ser­vices all in one place — was imprac­ti­cal. As a result, the Boston pro­gram shift­ed to a non-res­i­den­tial model.

Endi­cott College’s Pro­gram Eval­u­a­tion and Research Group stud­ied the pro­gram, which has served 29 fam­i­lies — all low-income col­lege-going sin­gle moth­ers and their chil­dren — since 2013. The eval­u­a­tors found that:

  • A non­res­i­den­tial mod­el can serve a broad­er tar­get pop­u­la­tion, such as fam­i­lies with old­er chil­dren and fam­i­lies who do not want to move.
  • Par­tic­i­pa­tion hur­dles were a fac­tor, since fam­i­lies didn’t live and receive ser­vices in the same place.
  • While Endi­cott offered sig­nif­i­cant sup­port and com­mu­ni­ty-build­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties, such as small group class­es and per­son­al­ized aca­d­e­m­ic coach­ing, fam­i­lies didn’t always reap the ben­e­fits of these offer­ings due to their dif­fi­cult liv­ing situations.

Beyond these find­ings, the eval­u­a­tors advised that Jere­mi­ah Pro­gram Boston fur­ther inte­grate its ser­vices for chil­dren and moth­ers, includ­ing cre­at­ing or part­ner­ing with an ear­ly-edu­ca­tion cen­ter near the exist­ing pro­gram site. Anoth­er rec­om­men­da­tion: Con­tin­ue to explore the option of recruit­ing fam­i­lies from pre-exist­ing hous­ing communities.

Despite the model’s mixed suc­cess to date, the Casey-fund­ed study has some clear, key take­aways to share. For starters, it con­firms that there is still more to learn about what works in two-gen­er­a­tion pro­gram­ming and what pro­duc­tive part­ner­ships look like in the two-gen­er­a­tion field.

The study has also helped iden­ti­fy some of the hur­dles that pro­grams face when try­ing to serve both par­ents and kids — espe­cial­ly in a non­res­i­den­tial set­ting. As Foun­da­tion Senior Asso­ciate Ilene Berman explains: Learn­ing about chal­lenges is just as impor­tant as iden­ti­fy­ing strengths and both are inte­gral to our larg­er goal of build­ing evi­dence of effec­tive programs.”

Read more about build­ing evi­dence for two-gen­er­a­tion programs

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