Lessons From the Field: Evaluating a Two-Generation Approach to Breaking the Cycle of Poverty

Posted November 7, 2018
By the Annie E. Casey Foundation
Mother with young children outside a school.

The dif­fi­cult work of deliv­er­ing inte­grat­ed ser­vices to low-income fam­i­lies has gained some essen­tial guideposts.

The source? A new­ly pub­lished eval­u­a­tion of the Fam­i­ly Eco­nom­ic Suc­cess — Ear­ly Child­hood Edu­ca­tion (FES-ECE) pilots. The Annie E. Casey Foun­da­tion launched this ini­tia­tive in Octo­ber 2013 under the premise that low-income fam­i­lies do bet­ter when chil­dren and par­ents receive ser­vices simultaneously.

With few proven mod­els to guide this two-gen­er­a­tion approach, Casey sought to under­stand how orga­ni­za­tions and sys­tems must evolve to sup­port entire fam­i­lies rather than just kids or adults alone.

The eval­u­a­tion, pre­pared by James Bell Asso­ciates, sum­ma­rizes imple­men­ta­tion expe­ri­ences and lessons learned from FES-ECE sites in Geor­gia, New York and Maryland.

It found that:

  • Pro­gram costs and fund­ing for two-gen­er­a­tion pro­grams are com­plex. Research is nec­es­sary to deter­mine oppor­tu­ni­ties for cost sav­ings and fund­ing alter­na­tives and also to finance inte­grat­ed ser­vices and infrastructure.
  • Build­ing data capac­i­ty is a fun­da­men­tal com­po­nent of devel­op­ing and sus­tain­ing a two-gen­er­a­tion approach.
  • A two-gen­er­a­tion approach can be a sig­nif­i­cant change in prac­tice. All three eval­u­at­ed sites invest­ed sub­stan­tial time and resources to train staff and devel­op buy-in for ser­vice delivery.
  • Shar­ing imple­men­ta­tion lessons is crit­i­cal to build­ing local capac­i­ty as the two-gen­er­a­tion field grows and matures.

Each site devel­oped its own approach to inte­grat­ed ser­vice deliv­ery based on the local econ­o­my, the needs of fam­i­lies and oth­er factors.

Edu­care and The Cen­ter for Work­ing Fam­i­lies, Inc. led the FES-ECE pilot in Atlanta, Geor­gia. Gar­rett Coun­ty Com­mu­ni­ty Action Com­mit­tee over­saw the project in Gar­rett Coun­ty, Mary­land. And Edu­ca­tion­al Alliance led the effort in New York City. A fourth pilot, coor­di­nat­ed by the Com­mu­ni­ty Action Project of Tul­sa Coun­ty in Okla­homa, par­tic­i­pat­ed in a sep­a­rate evaluation.

Since FES-ECE first began, we have learned a lot about ser­vice deliv­ery, orga­ni­za­tion­al capac­i­ty and the resources required for two-gen­er­a­tion approach­es,” says T’Pring West­brook, the Casey senior research asso­ciate who man­aged the eval­u­a­tion. The FES-ECE pro­grams are now lead­ers in this field and are posi­tioned to bet­ter serve the fam­i­lies with whom they work and to share lessons learned with oth­er pro­grams inter­est­ed in imple­ment­ing their own two-gen­er­a­tion approaches.”

A com­pan­ion report by the Casey Foun­da­tion, Invest­ing in Inno­va­tion: Reflec­tions on the Fam­i­ly Eco­nom­ic Suc­cess – Ear­ly Child­hood Edu­ca­tion Pilots, pro­vides lessons and rec­om­men­da­tions for fun­ders inter­est­ed in sup­port­ing two-gen­er­a­tion strategies.

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