Office of Community Services

OCS partners with states, communities, and agencies to reduce the causes of poverty, increase opportunity and economic security of individuals and families, and revitalize communities. OCS’s social service and community development programs work in a variety of ways to improve the lives of many. OCS’s main goals are to:

  • Serve the economic and social needs of individuals and families with low-incomes;
  • Provide employment and entrepreneurial opportunities;
  • Promote individual economic opportunity and security through the creation of full-time, permanent jobs;
  • Support asset building strategies for individuals and families with low-incomes, such as savings, increasing financial capability, and securing assets;
  • Assist community development corporations in utilizing existing funding for neighborhood revitalization projects;
  • Provide financial and technical resources to state, local, and public and private agencies for economic development and related social service activities; and
  • Provide energy assistance to households with low-incomes.

Partnership Opportunities

OCS administers the several social service and community development programs that may be leveraged to promote early childhood development. Several communities have leveraged OCS funding to develop and implement whole family and two-generation strategies to better meet their needs. Examples of strategies used in several communities are included in Appendix A. Funding from the programs below may be used to support these strategies:

  • Community Economic Development (CED) CED discretionary grants are awarded to nonprofit community development corporations in disinvested communities for purposes of creating new jobs for individuals with low-income, including TANF recipients.
  • Community Services Block Grant (CSBG) CSBG supports services designed to ameliorate the causes and conditions of poverty by assisting individuals and families with low-incomes and communities with services based on local needs (i.e., employment, education, and adequate housing).
  • Rural Community Development (RCD) RCD provides discretionary grants to assist low-income communities in developing affordable and safe water and wastewater treatment facilities.
  • Social Services Block (SSBG) SSBG provides funding to states to increase economic self-sufficiency; prevent or address neglect, abuse, or the exploitation of children and adults; prevent or reduce inappropriate institutionalization; and secure referrals for institutional care, where appropriate.

Examples of whole family approaches with early childhood initiatives using the Community Services Block Grant (CSBG) funding are as follows:

Central Missouri Community Action (Jefferson City, Missouri) - Central Missouri Community Action (CMCA) provides direct services to low-income Missourians. These services help stabilize families who are struggling, allowing them to begin moving toward self-sufficiency. CMCA’s whole family approach is an innovative strategy that focuses on the strengths and resources that a family brings to the table, and works with those strengths and resources to develop additional skills through intensive work with a Family Support Coach. Utilizing the Self Sufficiency Matrix, coaches work with families to identify family areas of strengths and needs and develop long-term goals and services to fill gaps and strengthen needs for self-sufficiency. Coaches provide these intensive services to HS, EHS, and Housing Choice Voucher families who self-select into the whole family approach through one-on-one monthly meetings, quarterly home visits, community referrals and resources, and inner-agency programs and services to achieve goals. The BRIDGE program is a specific service delivery strategy that is currently being deployed at CMCA as a way to improve outcomes for families. BRIDGE is a unique program that brings CMCA families, schools, and communities together to strengthen outcomes for children. The program supports social and emotional health in the family, engages teachers in activities that lead to classroom success for students, develops relationships between families and their schools, and connects a community of supports to both parents and their children. BRIDGE continues supports for HS/EHS parents and children as the children advance to Kindergarten – 3rd grade.

Mahube-Otwa Community Action (Detroit-Lakes, Minnesota) - Mahube-Otwa Community Action Partnership serves five rural counties in West Central, Minnesota, and White Earth Nation: Mahnomen, Hubbard, Becker, Otter Tail, Wadena, with a poverty rate of 9.7-22.4%. Mahube-Otwa uses the whole family approach mindset throughout the agency by breaking down barriers to provide efficient family-driven services to assist young and old alike, focusing on strengths and asset-building rather than crisis management, and eliminating internal redundancies for staff and participants. Mahube-Otwa is still early in its implementation of the whole family approach; however, it has engaged in several promising practices, which includes expanding its early childhood capacity by hiring a Child Care Collaboratives Manager to preserve and expand availability of high-quality early childhood programs in the region. Mahube-Otwa is currently using HS parent engagement and training as an innovation in Early Childhood Education, with a 6-week Cooking Matters course aimed at parents of young children and a 5-week Love and Logic course for parenting. Additionally, one of their staff members is housed at a local elementary school and is focused on working with the school district to have teachers do home visits for public early childhood programs similar to our HS model. Mahube-Otwa Community Action Partnership has also used its approach to strengthen its partnership with White Earth Nation, to reduce out-of-home placements and work with at-risk families to keep their children safe at home.

Metropolitan Action Commission (Nashville, Tennessee) - The Metropolitan Action Commission (MAC) is a public Community Action Agency providing a wide range of opportunities to those most vulnerable in Nashville and Davidson County, Tennessee, since 1964. Opportunities include a 2 GEN MAC4JOBS program, adult education and employment, HS/EHS, youth technology camp, energy assistance, household assistance, as well as a number of food-related programs. The collection and analysis of data in their agency has strengthened over the last few years, including a 3-year correlational study on outcomes for HS children. MAC also strengthening its training of staff using data analytics and data visualization. MAC’s 2Gen initiative is holistic and family-centered, including both child and parent programming. MAC offers short-term, high-yield job trainings aimed to help parents quickly access living-wage jobs while their kids are in HS.

Garrett County Community Action Committee (Oakland, Maryland) - Garrett County Community Action Committee (GCCAC) is located in Maryland. One of the few human service providers in its rural community, GCCAC provides services in education, health services, housing, and transportation. In 2008, GCCAC engaged in a 5-year, comprehensive strategic planning process to integrate services and help families become self-sufficient. This plan was the foundation of Garrett County’s two-generation approach and involved structural changes at the organizational level, such as a new management information system, revised job descriptions, restructuring, and changes in how families were assessed and served. GCCAC’s two-generation approach includes partnerships with five agencies to offer EHS/HS, coaching to help families establish and achieve their goals, financial education workshops, budgeting sessions, one-on-one financial coaching, child care (including early care and summer programming), parent meetings, teacher home visits, and social and parent support activities. A leading national Whole Family/ two-generation approach model, Garrett has been featured in several publications including:

Mid-Iowa Community Action, Inc. (Marshalltown, Iowa) - Mid-Iowa Community Action, Inc., (MICA) serves approximately 25,000 people in rural, central Iowa. Sixty-eight percent of families served are below the poverty line. The agency provides family development, early childhood, health, and housing services. MICA’s whole family approach targets HS and TANF families. They provide HS and child care services and work with parents to achieve educational goals such as English as a Second Language (ESL) and high school diplomas. The agency is specifically coordinating programs for refugee families from Burma and other immigrants. The central focus of MICA’s whole family approach is to strengthen the integration of services for families through the provision of strong career pathways for adults and high-quality education for children. One of their best examples of innovations for whole families is their Family Development and Self-Sufficiency (FaDSS) program. FaDSS provides in-home support to families receiving FIP (welfare) assistance, helping them increase their stability and their ability to become economically self-sufficient. FaDSS works through family development specialists who meet one-on-one with families in regular home visits. Together, specialists and families address the barriers affecting their success.

CAP Tulsa (Tulsa, Oklahoma) - Located in Tulsa, Oklahoma, CAP Tulsa is a community action agency focused on interrupting the cycle of poverty. They provide high-quality early education services for young children, as well as a range of supportive services designed to improve the economic status of their parents. Their mission is to help young children in lower-income families grow up and achieve economic success. CAP Tulsa launched its two-generation approach, CareerAdvance, in 2009. The program offers health care career training, college coursework and trainings, career coaching, incentives to reduce the financial burden of entering school, early care and education, and HS. CAP Tulsa uses early childhood education as a gateway to integrated program options for the adults in low-income families. A leading national whole family/ two-generation approach model, CAP Tulsa has been regarded as a subject matter expert and has been featured in the following publications:

  • National Community Action Partnership, Uplifting the Family: A Two-Generation Approach
  • Northwestern Studies on CAP Tulsa’s Two-Generation Approach
  • Early Childhood Research Quarterly, Head Start, Two-Generation ESL Services, and Parent Engagement

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