Click here to see the video of Dr. Birken presenting the 2Gen Report to The Florida Chamber Foundation.
There is growing recognition in Florida that systemic approaches are needed to simultaneously address the needs of both families and children in poverty. This is known as the two-generational approach, or 2Gen. The Florida Children’s Council is dedicated to working with strategic leadership and partners on the 2Gen approach to identify more effective policies to improve economic stability and strengthen outcomes for children and families in poverty.
Research is clear that poverty is the single greatest threat to children’s well-being. Risks are greatest for children who experience poverty when they are young and/or experience deep and persistent poverty. Poverty greatly impedes children’s ability to learn and contributes to social, emotional, and behavioral problems. Poverty also can contribute to poor health and mental health.
Approximately 45% of children in Florida are from low-income households. Most of these children have parents who work, but low wages and unstable employment leave their families struggling to make ends meet. But effective public policies and investments can make a difference.
State Policy Development
With growing recognition of the need for systemic approaches to strengthen resources and supports for families in poverty, coordinated strategies on social system development improvements and reform will be critical to maximize the policy opportunities that will be emerging in the next many years. The Council has expanded work and collaboration with state agency leadership, the Florida Chamber, and other key partners to improve public policies and increase coordination of services that would better support children and families in poverty.
As part of this effort, the Council has conducted analysis of social service policies and identified systemic policy change that better supports the needs of children and families in poverty. Although work support benefits have helped recipients maintain employment and survive on limited incomes, often the programs unintentionally create disincentives for progression along a wage or career path necessary to move a household permanently out of poverty. Through the analysis of current policies for social services, the Council has documented the presence of “cliff effects” for families with young children that challenge the economic stabilization for families in poverty. With social service supports, just as families are on the pathway to economic self-sufficiency, most social services have strict eligibility requirements that limit a family’s ability to achieve financial security and independence.
To best support the development of young children, a two-generational approach is necessary to ensure stability and security for the whole family. As a result, the Council’s recommendations for more effective policies are focused on system integration opportunities and strategies that better coordinate and align supports for children and families in poverty.
Demonstration Communities: Families’ Ascent to Economic Security (FATES)
While intentional, focused work on state policy is needed to increase understanding and knowledge on the opportunities for comprehensive, integrated approaches to social services that better meet the needs of families, there is also need to demonstrate approaches and models not bound by current federal regulations and statutory policies. To advance this work, the Florida Children’s Council received grant funding from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation to first develop and now implement a community model of system integration designed to strengthen supports for families and provide a roadmap for the long-term state and federal policy alignment on poverty. Leadership from Children’s Services Councils, CareerSource, and Early Learning Coalitions are partnering in Broward, Palm Beach, Martin and St. Lucie Counties to integrate workforce and early learning services that support low-income families.
The FATES alignment strategies have been designed to support two overarching goals: 1) economic security through access to achievable workforce development opportunities that include high-wage/high-demand industry sector career lattices and 2) stronger child outcomes through continuity of quality child care and reduction of toxic stress. Critical to this work is the mitigation of the child care fiscal cliff through a graduated phase out that provides continued financial supports for families at decreasing levels as wages increase. The resulting platform is the centerpiece of innovation to strengthen family outcomes and greatly inform community practices, as well as state and federal policy.
For more information, read the Council’s report – Two Generational Approach: Focused Policies for Improved Outcomes.
Learn more about our partner The Florida Chamber Foundation.