By Monica Barczak, Senior Advisor, Administration for Children and Families
In Summer 2015, the White House Rural Council launched Rural Integration Models for Parents and Children to Thrive (Rural IMPACT) as part of a larger strategy to reduce child poverty in rural and tribal areas. The Administration for Children and Families took a leadership role in developing and implementing this initiative.
Ten rural and tribal communities were selected to participate through a competitive process. Sites have received comprehensive technical assistance to promote efforts to improve the well-being of children, parents, and families through a two-generation approach that addresses the needs of both vulnerable children and their parents.
Rural IMPACT Visit disclaimer page brings together a powerful inter-agency team comprised of a number of offices in ACF, plus the Health Resources Services Administration , the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Department of Labor, the Department of Education, the Corporation for National and Community Service, the Delta Regional Authority, and the Appalachian Regional Commission.
Through ACF leadership, the federal team works with two technical assistance providers – the Community Action Partnership and the American Academy of Pediatrics – to connect the ten sites to federal and local resources; sift through policy issues and concerns; support two AmeriCorps VISTA volunteers on the ground in each community; and provide technical assistance in the form of subject matter experts, intensive peer learning and exchange, a dedicated coach for each site, federal team visits to each site, and two in-person meetings. The team also works with private partners such as foundations and think tanks.
We’ve reached the end of the project’s first year, and a lot of progress has been made.
Sites in Arkansas and Kentucky have moved towards co-locating multiple services in a single building to improve access for families. Sites in Ohio and Oklahoma have been improving centralized intake systems so families can access multiple services easily. Sites in Iowa and Maryland have been refining shared measurement systems so that partners can track the progress of children, parents, and families. Communities in Utah and Mississippi are opening and reinvigorating new conversations with diverse stakeholders to better address the needs of families. Communities in Maine and Minnesota are using family-centered assessments and goal-setting, and providing coaching to help parents improve their economic and overall well-being while their children participate in quality education services.
The involvement of the federal team has helped communities do more. For example, Mid-Iowa Community Action in Marshalltown, Iowa developed a relationship with its state office of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). Together they changed the policy so that families participating in their flagship economic security program can get six months of services after transitioning off cash assistance rather than the three currently allowed. With three extra months of support, families will likely be more successful at securing, and more importantly retaining, good paying jobs that will help them stay off public assistance in the future.
Highland County Community Action Organization in Hillsboro, Ohio, wrote a state grant application highlighting the community-wide partnership they built for Rural IMPACT. They secured a $732,000 Healthier Buckeye Grant to further the work with children and families in Highland county.
Rural IMPACT has given ACF a unique venue to pursue our mission of fostering health and well-being of children and families. It has allowed us to promote a two-generation approach as articulated in the strategic plan. It is consistent with policy guidance provided in a recent letter from the Acting Assistant Secretary to State Human Services Commissioners, as well as Information Memoranda from the Office of Community Services, the Office of Family Assistance, and the Office of Child Care.
We look forward to working with the ten communities in the coming year and sharing the lessons we learn together.
For more information about the Rural IMPACT program, contact Ali Sutton.