Want to Lift Kids Out of Poverty? Take their Parents on the Ride

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Silhouette of mom and daughter
Photo by Adrees Latif/Reuters

The phrase “two-generation” may not be ubiquitous—yet’—but it’s popping up more and more in discussions about lifting kids and families out of poverty. Decades after this concept emerged and then faded, The Annie E. Casey Foundation and other organizations are putting programs into place that offer concrete examples of what the two-generation approach looks like.

According to the Casey Foundation, this two-generation approach aims to create opportunities for families by simultaneously equipping parents and kids with the tools they need to thrive while removing the obstacles in their way.

A pilot two-generation program that is gaining national attention is located in Georgia, at the Atlanta Civic Site in Mechanicsville. The Civic Site is working with the Dunbar Learning Complex, an innovative learning center that gives children access to high-quality, early-childhood education—and childcare—while helping parents develop skills and get better jobs.

For parents working a low-wage job, paying for childcare nets them less gross income than if they simply didn’t work and stayed home with their children. Dunbar spares parents of that headache. Parents can drop their kids off for the whole day, from 6:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., but director Steve White is adamant that this is not daycare.

“It can’t be daycare, it can’t be a nursery, it can’t be a childcare center,” he said in a story in The Atlantic. “It has to be a school, so that people who make decisions can understand the importance of what we’re doing—we want to have better outcomes.”

By targeting both parent and child, the Atlantic Civic Site and Dunbar already are producing impressive results. Test scores are soaring for children in the program, and 1,800 adults are being placed in jobs every year through the Learning Center’s work with The Center for Working Families, located just up the road from Dunbar.

The Casey Foundation points out that two-generation programs aren’t cheap, requiring more manpower than more traditional interventions. However, it may finally represent an effective strategy for breaking the crushing cycle of generational poverty that has long plagued the nation, and the South in particular.

Read the story on the Atlanta Civic Site’s two-generation approach in The Atlantic, titled, “A Different Approach to Breaking the Cycle of Poverty.”

Georgia Family Connection Partnership recently published a snapshot using long-term vital records trends to examine the well-being of both parents and children in Georgia. Read Concentrating on the Whole Family: A Two-Generation Approach to Improving Health and Well-Being for Children and Their Parents.

Read The Annie E. Casey Foundation’s report, Creating Opportunity for Families: A Two-Generation Approach.