The two-generation approach to women and families’ economic security is the common-sense sort of idea that is not currently used by most programs addressing these groups separately. It is a lens to look at programs through, an idea that the success of parents and their children are inextricably linked. Policy-makers and other organizations advocating for the economic security of those underrepresented in this country should focus both on the economic stability and self-esteem of the parents, as well as quality education and opportunities for their children.
A lunch event by Women’s Policy, Inc. discussed this framework and featured a moderator, Shelley Waters Boots and 3 speakers: Anne Mosle, Gloria Perez, and Duane Yoder. Each presented information about their different programs that all utilize the two-generation approach.
Anne Mosle is the Vice President of the Aspen Institute and the Executive Director of Ascend, one of the policy programs of the Aspen Institute. Their program focuses on the gaps that exist because so many do not use the two-generation approach. They bridge these gaps by engaging the actual families in need, building leadership cohorts, and providing the Ascend fund to encourage people and organizations to work within the two-generational approach. Mosle suggests moving forward to use a two-generational approach when revisiting head-start and secondary school systems, healthcare and other government services, and also to focus on the power of formal and informal relationships such as their cross-sector collaboration does.
Gloria Perez is the President of the Jeremiah Program based out of Minneapolis, MN. It provides safe and affordable housing for families, quality early education for children, life skills training for adults, and a support system while the parents pursue a mandated secondary education degree. Parents graduating from the Jeremiah Program see themselves as the primary care providers for their children and have confidence in their own abilities and their ability to provide for their children.
The final speaker, Duane Yoder, the President of Garrett County Community Action Committee, spoke about their 40-year-old anti-poverty program in a rural community in Maryland. The program has eliminated the early education gap and now all children are “school ready” entering public kindergarten. Their mission is to increase access to education, support the parents through childcare, etc. and increase their self-efficacy.
During the question and answer point, folks focused on how policies could reflect this two-generation approach and the answers went in many directions. Some said it was easier to work on the social, capital side of it so that parents had that plan b, c, or even d to not derail anything in their life when shift changes were made last minute. The Family Medical Leave Act is of importance for many reasons including the opportunity to bring more employers to the tale and look at how the customers and workers’ demographics and needs are changing. An idea to include childcare support as part of scholarships and financial aid was mentioned as a holistic approach to encouraging parents to go to school.
This discussion reminded me of an idea I had heard before, to use the facilities of local schools and other government buildings that are widely underused at night to bring life skill training classes or even college courses to make it easier for parents to get to these resources and make time for their children. All of the approaches and programs listed here may look different, but they all have a common goal: to provide parents with the tools to support their children and themselves, give children and students a quality education, and present underserved families with a chance to succeed.