Two-Generation Approaches to Breaking the Cycle of Poverty

The Annie E. Casey Foundation recently released a policy report calling for policymakers to focus on equipping both children and parents with the resources and skills they need to ensure the future success of today’s children. Though a Future of Children report cautions that the new wave of two-generation programs is still in its infancy, the theory behind the approach is strong and worthy of support and further research.

The Annie E. Casey Foundation report cites several types of existing programs that provide a platform for the two-generation approach, including home visiting. Home visitors meet monthly or sometimes weekly with families in their home. The home visitor develops a relationship with the family, works with the parent to help the child achieve developmental milestones, and at the same time, aids the parent in achieving personal financial, health, and well-being goals.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act allocated $1.5 billion annually for the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program (MIECHV) to fund states in implementing home visiting program models for families with children from birth to age 5 as well as pregnant women. The Child and Family Research Partnership is currently evaluating the statewide Texas Home Visiting program to understand the challenges in scaling home visiting programs and the potential impacts these two-generation programs can have on families and communities.

Though additional research is needed to fully understand the impact of a two-generation approach, it is clear from the Annie E. Casey Foundation Report that it is time for policymakers, government, and businesses to create and strengthen policies that support both the parent and child. Home visiting programs are one model for this approach but others should be considered as well.

Parents need access to postsecondary and employment pathways, as well as access to state and federal programs that increase income, to achieve financial stability. They also need resources to manage their own health and well-being in addition to that of their children. By connecting parents with these resources and at the same time, providing the children in the family with access to early childhood education, programs can reduce household stress and strengthen the family. This, in turn, provides children with a strong foundation for achieving developmental and learning milestones that will enable them to achieve future success.

- by Allison Dubin, Research Associate