Steven Wagner, Acting Assistant Secretary, Administration for Children and Families
Twenty-one years after the passage of welfare reform, states have recently been shifting how they assist low-income parents to become economically independent. More and more programs and policymakers are focusing on systems that work with the whole family. Research has shown that a parent’s education, economic stability, and overall health have a large effect on a child’s trajectory, and that children’s healthy development and education impact a parent’s success.
Effectively implementing a whole family approach requires a robust network of support from many partners.
The Administration for Children and Families’ Region 1 and the National Conference of State Legislatures recently kicked off an initiative funded by the John T. Gorman and W.K. Kellogg Foundations, bringing together state leaders, innovative programs, families, philanthropy, and business leaders from six states in the Northeast. Participants shared a common interest in finding better ways to braid policies across agencies to help parents move towards and into employment. Over the next two years, the group will work together to align systems and develop customer-friendly and family-centered programs and policies across agencies. Each state will define its own goals and strategies, but with a common purpose. These new strategies will improve access to employment and economic independence for families across workforce development, human services, and early care and education policies.
By bringing states together, the group hopes to increase communication between state governments, sharing information and best practices. They’ll also work to find the barriers that are limiting parent’s ability to become more economically stable – particularly those that make it harder for families to change jobs or move to higher paying positions. Putting federal and local government, non-profits, philanthropy, and families in a room together lets policymakers work directly with stakeholders to figure out what ideas and methods can be most effective.
As a part of this effort, ACF’s Region 1 office will also work with our Region 4 office to test region-to-region exchanges of policy, program, communications, and integrated service delivery. This will ensure that the lessons learned in the Northeast can find their way across the country to serve even more families.
The stability of a family depends on all of its members. Through federal-state-local and public-private collaborative efforts like this one, we’re working to create a community of support to help all families grow and thrive.