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July 2016Vol. 17, No. 5Framework for Combatting Intergenerational Cycles of Poverty

Targeted family goals should be the focus when designing an approach to intergenerational poverty, according to a report by the Urban Institute. The report draws on lessons learned from the Housing Opportunity and Services Together (HOST) demonstration project—a collaborative effort launched in Baltimore; Washington, DC; Chicago; and Portland—to test two-generation models in public and subsidized housing for their viability in helping vulnerable families.

Because family strengths and weaknesses are unique and vary widely, the authors argue that the practice of setting uniform goals for families does not efficiently address two-generation poverty. The report also notes that many two-generation models have tended to favor one generation over the other, when what is needed is an approach more evenly focused on both generations. To achieve this, case managers must to consider the whole family when deciding where to focus efforts and resources. The report presents a theoretical framework for two-generation models that aims to create a "multiplier effect" to meet the needs of both adults and their children through intensive case management and supplemental supports. The goal is to promote better outcomes for all family members that will carry over into subsequent generations.

The framework addresses four areas of focus:

  • Family goals: The framework addresses the fact that families have different strengths and needs, and it discusses a typology that could help practitioners think about the "types" of families with whom they work (e.g., striver, high-risk, and severely distressed families). Gaining a deeper understanding of individual families' situations and starting points can help establish an appropriate timeframe for treatment and services and inform both short- and long-term goals for each family.
  • Individual goals: Family goals can be used as a lens to help families and practitioners decide how to best target goals for individuals within a family so that the individual goals benefit not only the specific family member, but also feed into larger family goals.
  • Appropriate solutions: The framework advises that it may be advantageous to delay the selection of programs and services for families until a deeper and more nuanced understanding of a particular family's and family members' needs are achieved.
  • Outcomes: Having parents and their children participate in coordinated services may lead to increased multiplier effects that can encourage a family's success as a whole and its participation at higher programmatic levels.

The report also suggests that child welfare providers should advocate for broad systems change that will enhance intergenerational upward mobility, such as access to enhanced health care, mental health, child care, education, and training services.

Read the full report, A Theoretical Framework for Two-Generation Models: Lessons From the HOST Demonstration, by Molly M. Scott, Susan J. Popkin, and Jasmine K. Simington, at (312 KB).