External Forces Affect Efforts to Serve Parents and Children Together

Posted February 6, 2020
By the Annie E. Casey Foundation
Adult with young child

Two eval­u­a­tion reports doc­u­ment how com­mu­ni­ties par­tic­i­pat­ing in the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Fam­i­ly-Cen­tered Com­mu­ni­ty Change™(FCCC) ini­tia­tive have grap­pled with broad trends in hous­ing, edu­ca­tion and trans­porta­tion as they pur­sue new approach­es to strength­en­ing families.

Draw­ing on lessons from Buf­fa­lo, Colum­bus and San Anto­nio, the Urban Institute’s report, Incor­po­rat­ing Two-Gen­er­a­tion Approach­es into Com­mu­ni­ty Change, iden­ti­fies exter­nal fac­tors that can ham­per an initiative’s effec­tive­ness and offers lessons on how to com­bat them. Ini­tia­tives can’t be looked at in iso­la­tion, the report finds — it’s impor­tant to con­sid­er the con­text in which they work.

A sec­ond report, Fos­ter­ing Racial and Eth­nic Equi­ty and Inclu­sion, looks at how FCCC part­ners have used the Foundation’s strate­gies and resources for advanc­ing racial and eth­nic equi­ty and inclu­sion to strength­en approach­es for fam­i­lies. For both reports, the Urban Insti­tute used data from pub­lic sources and eval­u­a­tion part­ners, along with focus groups, obser­va­tions and inter­views in all three FCCC locations.

These reports show how impor­tant it is for com­mu­ni­ty change efforts to under­stand large forces that affect fam­i­lies, and take these forces into account in shap­ing their strate­gies,” says Amoret­ta Mor­ris, the Foundation’s direc­tor of nation­al com­mu­ni­ty strate­gies. The eval­u­a­tors also demon­strate that many of these chal­lenges stem from and are com­pound­ed by racism, and that approach­es must address those root causes.”

What is FCCC?

Two-gen­er­a­tion approach­es aim to pro­vide coor­di­nat­ed resources for chil­dren and their par­ents. The Foun­da­tion launched FCCC in 2012, part­ner­ing with com­mu­ni­ty devel­op­ment ini­tia­tives in Buf­fa­lo, Colum­bus and San Anto­nio. The ini­tia­tive works to bol­ster fam­i­ly well-being in three key areas: 1) eco­nom­ic sta­bil­i­ty, 2) par­ent engage­ment and lead­er­ship and 3) ear­ly child care and education.

Nav­i­gat­ing Broad Exter­nal Factors

The Urban Insti­tute found that even the most effec­tive com­mu­ni­ty devel­op­ment ini­tia­tives may have to nav­i­gate struc­tur­al chal­lenges that extend beyond their bor­ders, includ­ing lack of afford­able hous­ing, employ­ment uncer­tain­ty, inad­e­quate trans­porta­tion, endur­ing deficits in child care and edu­ca­tion­al resources and an unpre­dictable pol­i­cy envi­ron­ment. Specif­i­cal­ly, the Urban Insti­tute con­clud­ed that:

  • Exter­nal fac­tors can play a major role in influ­enc­ing the suc­cess of a com­mu­ni­ty devel­op­ment ini­tia­tive. In the three com­mu­ni­ties, some of these fac­tors — like strong exist­ing part­ner­ships with local ele­men­tary schools — were pos­i­tive. But oth­ers, like the local effects of the nation­al hous­ing cri­sis and uncer­tain­ty about immi­gra­tion pol­i­cy on the fed­er­al lev­el, act­ed as roadblocks.
  • Local pub­lic offi­cials and orga­ni­za­tions can nav­i­gate exter­nal obsta­cles through adap­ta­tion. As a response to the grow­ing afford­able hous­ing cri­sis, Buf­fa­lo ramped up evic­tion pre­ven­tion ser­vices and afford­able hous­ing ini­tia­tives. Colum­bus worked with local part­ners to improve ear­ly care and edu­ca­tion for young chil­dren. San Anto­nio focused on improv­ing aca­d­e­m­ic out­comes in local ele­men­tary schools by strength­en­ing part­ner­ships with the local school dis­trict and work­force system.
  • Part­ner­ships should under­stand soci­etal influ­ences beyond their con­trol — from inad­e­quate local trans­porta­tion to afford­able hous­ing short­ages — and plan around them to craft an effec­tive two-gen­er­a­tion approach.
  • Part­ner­ships should build local coali­tions that fos­ter pol­i­cy advance­ment on a com­mu­ni­ty lev­el to main­tain and pro­mote progress in the face of an unpre­dictable nation­al pol­i­cy landscape.

Advanc­ing Equi­ty in FCCC

In each FCCC loca­tion, most par­ents and chil­dren served were peo­ple of col­or. Race plays an unde­ni­able role in shap­ing the lives and oppor­tu­ni­ties of chil­dren and adults across the coun­try, and the Foun­da­tion encour­aged FCCC part­ners to address that real­i­ty by adopt­ing approach­es that incor­po­rate racial and eth­nic equi­ty and inclu­sion — and by tak­ing advan­tage of the Foundation’s train­ing and resources.

After observ­ing equi­ty train­ings in the three FCCC com­mu­ni­ties, the Urban Insti­tute offered rec­om­men­da­tions for oth­ers to use in advanc­ing equity:

  • Put in time. Devote suf­fi­cient time to the engage­ment and inclu­sion of peo­ple who are receiv­ing REEI train­ing — and ben­e­fit­ing from it.
  • Use clear lan­guage. Use clear, shared lan­guage for dis­cussing top­ics of racial and eth­nic equi­ty to fos­ter a dia­logue that is inclu­sive and understandable.
  • Invest in con­ti­nu­ity. Cre­ate learn­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties and train­ings that are ongo­ing, rein­forc­ing lessons over time.
  • Keep track of progress. Col­lect and use data to track improve­ments, so you can learn from and repli­cate them.
  • Be clear with your audi­ence and stake­hold­ers. Know your intend­ed audi­ence, and rec­og­nize who your stake­hold­ers are. Be clear with them about their role in build­ing racial equi­ty and inclusion.
  • Look inward. Take the tem­per­a­ture of your own orga­ni­za­tion or ini­tia­tive. Are you prac­tic­ing the val­ues that you preach? Are you a mod­el for the progress you propose?

Learn more about the FCCC report find­ings in Buf­fa­lo, San Anto­nio and Colum­bus.

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