Next Steps for Rigorous Research on Two-Generation Approaches (NS2G), 2019-2023

Low-income families can face significant challenges as they attempt to navigate education and employment while finding quality early care and education that supports children’s development and meets families’ needs. Two-generation programs that intentionally combine economic security services for parents with accessible, high quality early care and education for children hold promise for improving family well-being. The Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation, within the Administration for Children and Families, has developed the Next Steps for Rigorous Research on Two-Generation Approaches (NS2G) project to continue building the evidence base for fully integrated, intentional two-generation program models with adequate intensity and quality of services for both parents and their children.

OPRE contracted with Mathematica to expand upon findings from a literature review, national scan, and field work conducted during the previous project, Integrated Approaches to Supporting Child Development and Improving Family Economic Security (Integrated Approaches). Findings from the Integrated Approaches project revealed that the nascent and developing field of two-generation approaches could be supported by formative research on measuring program implementation in terms of quality, intensity, and intentionality; tracking the uptake of these services by parents and their children; and assessing the outputs of program services.

This study will help programs improve their readiness for effectiveness evaluations by pursuing four recommendations that emerged from the Integrated Approaches project:

  1. develop and refine a theory of change for serving parents and their children together;
  2. develop safe and secure data systems that link parent and child records;
  3. measure components in the theory of change, including program services, outputs, and parent, child, family, and systems outcomes; and
  4. use data to understand the intervention and rapidly and continuously improve implementation.

Over the next four years, project staff will apply these recommendations to strengthen selected two-generation programs, extend the lessons from those activities to the broader two-generation program field, and ultimately prepare a subset of two-generation programs for summative evaluation. The current project has three core components:

  1. Conduct formative evaluations with up to five two-generation programs to better understand program implementation, strengthen and refine their theories of change, and prepare those programs for evaluation;
  2. Develop and strengthen the internal capacity of programs and the capacity of local evaluators to conduct rigorous and meaningful evaluations of integrated approaches to supporting child development and improving family economic security; and
  3. Draft and pilot test a measure of important constructs included in a two-generation change framework that will support future evaluations and build knowledge across programs.

The project team will partner with content, technical, and practical experts—as well as a range of stakeholders from government agencies, policymaker associations, and professional organizations—to inform the work and produce reliable recommendations about building program capacity and conducting formative evaluations.

Mathematica will produce and disseminate one synthesis report, a report that addresses measurement issues, and several briefs. The synthesis report will summarize all project activities, share lessons learned, and offer possible next steps to advance the field of two-generation programming. Additional products include webinars and a memo outlining next steps for building evaluation capacity in the field of two-generation programs.

The points of contact are Kathleen Dwyer, Erin Cannon, and Emily Ross.