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Poverty in Indiana: Helping Parents Helps the Kids

PHOTO: A new report finds families living in poverty could be strengthened with policies that use a two-generation approach, addressing the whole family, rather than parents and kids separately. Photo credit: M. Kuhlman.
PHOTO: A new report finds families living in poverty could be strengthened with policies that use a two-generation approach, addressing the whole family, rather than parents and kids separately. Photo credit: M. Kuhlman.
November 12, 2014

INDIANAPOLIS - Young families have a better chance to break the cycle of poverty when there are better-coordinated efforts to help them succeed as a family unit, according to a new Annie E. Casey Foundation report.

The report stresses the need for a "two-generation" approach to policies aimed at lower-income families with young children.

Patrice Cromwell, director of strategic initiatives for the Casey Foundation, said what's needed is to integrate job, education and parenting programs for adults with high-quality early learning for their kids, so the family benefits as a whole.

"It's not enough to invest in early childhood and parenting skills," she said. "We're encouraging states and local practitioners to look at both the parent and child needs together, to help parents bring up their children in a stable environment."

Cromwell said programs and services for children or parents have the best intentions but often are fragmented. She said a more family-centered approach also helps parents set good examples for their children as they work to build a more stable household.

Cromwell said the two-generation approach is based on research that shows beneficial outcomes for children when parents are also supported.

"So, if we can help families become more stable, it leads to lower family stress and increases the opportunity for stronger parent-child relationships," she said.

The Nurse Family Partnership in Indianapolis is a voluntary home-visiting program that provides parenting and child-rearing assistance for families. Cromwell said it's a great example of how the two-generation approach works.

"They've partnered with Goodwill Industries to work with that same parent on building up some of their job readiness and academic skills," she said. "So, when they're ready to go back to work, they'll have advanced and been in a position to move into the labor force."

The report said 228,000 Indiana families with young children are low-income, and in 77 percent of those families, no parent has an associate's degree or higher.

The report, "Creating Opportunity for Families: A Two-Generation Approach," is online at AECF.org.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - IN