by Dan Heyman
RICHMOND, Va. – A new strategy – helping kids by helping their families – is offering promise for Virginia’s poverty-fighting efforts.
A new report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation says child poverty programs can have more impact with a “two-generation approach,” helping parents at the same time as their children. That might sound obvious, but the report says many programs are narrowly targeted at areas such as children’s health or education. This would broaden that focus.
Emily Griffey, senior policy analyst for Voices for Virginia’s Children, said it matches what they’ve seen with some state programs.
“We’re getting a more effective government that has a better impact on children and families,” she said. “Kids succeed when families succeed – and when these families work, our society works better.”
According to Patrice Cromwell, director of strategic initiatives for the Casey Foundation, supporting the children of struggling families means focusing on job training and employment assistance for their parents. She said it also helps them be better mothers and fathers by “supporting parents in their ability to get and keep a job and be a strong parent.
“If we can help families become more stable,” she said, “it leads to lower family stress.”
One Virginia program uses home visits to provide family coaching. It’s designed to address children’s developmental, health and educational needs, but also job training and other assistance for the parents. Griffey said it has increased the parents’ employment by 40 percent, and done a lot for the kids as a result. She called it an excellent value for Virginia taxpayers.
“But we know right now,” she said, “that only 12 percent of the low-income families with young children who could benefit from home-visiting services have access, due to funding limitations.”
About one-third of Virginia children are growing up in low-income families.
The report, “Creating Opportunity for Families: A Two-Generation Approach,” is online at AECF.org.