Connecticut Association for Human Services

Building Opportunity, Two Generations at a Time



CAHS hosted a webinar on December 2nd, 2014 giving a general overview on these programs, going over their basic features and what challenges and opportunities around these efforts in Connecticut.

Nearly half of America´s families struggle to make ends meet. In Connecticut alone, 80,000 families with children age 8 or under are poor or near poor. In 60% of those families, none of the parents have full time, year round employment; in 80%, no parent has an associate degree or higher education.

Two generation strategies have proved to be an effective, bold solution to address these needs: programs that work to reduce poverty not by targeting the kids or the parents, but the family as a whole. Instead of addressing the needs of each member separately, two generational programs work with the family unit as a whole, combining early care and education, professional skills development, parenting classes, health care, adult education and other services to provide true wrap around support to both kids and parents.

  • You can download the PowerPoint presentation here, or watch it with audio below.

Resources from the presentation:

  • The enabling legislation for the Two Gen Policy Group can be found here.
  • The Annie E. Casey Foundation report on two-generation approaches is available here.
  • The Working Poor Families project report on two generation strategies is available here.
  • The Annie E. Casey Foundation has an extensive list of resources and links in this page.

Other reports and resources after the jump.


Ascend at the Aspen Institute

Two Generations. One Future. Anne Mosle and Nisha Patel. January, 2012.photo2.jpg

Gateway To Two Generations: The Potential For Early Childhood Programs and Partnerships To Support Children And Parents Together Joan Lombardi, Anne Mosle, Nisha Patel, Rachel Schumacher and Jennifer Stedron, January, 2104.

The Affordable Care Act: Affording Two-Generation Approaches to Health.Alan Weil, Shayla Regmi and Carrie Hanlon, September 2014.

Making Economic Security a Family Tradition: Report from the 2012 ThinkXChange.  Ascend at the Aspen Institute, 2013.

Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP)

Thriving Children, Successful Parents: A Two-Generation Approach to Policy Stephanie Schmit, Hannah Matthews and Olivia Golden, July 2014.

Center for the Study of Social Policy (CSSP)

Two (or More) Generation Frameworks: A Look Across and Within. Janice M. Gruendel, Ph.D., M. Ed, March 2014. 

Child Trends

Two Generations in Poverty: Status and Trends among Parents and Children in the United States, 2000-2010.  Zakia Redd, Tahilin Sanchez Karver, David Murphey, Kristin Anderson Moore and Dylan Knewstub, November 2011.

Foundation for Child Development

Promoting Two-Generation Strategies: A Getting-Started Guide for State and Local Policy Makers. Christopher T. King, Rheagan Coffey and Tara C. Smith, November 2013.

Mother’s Education and Children’s Outcomes: How Dual-Generation Programs Offer Increased Opportunities for America’s ChildrenDonald J. Hernandez and Jeffrey S. Napierala, July, 2014.

Future of Children

Helping Parents, Helping Children: Two Generation Mechanisms, Volume 24, No. 1. Spring, 2014.


Investing in Parents to Invest in Children, Testimony at the National Summit on America’s Children. Gordon Berlin, President, MDRC, May, 2007.

National Center for Children in Poverty

State Policies through a Two-Generation Lens:  Strengthening the Collective Impact of Policies that Affect the Life Course of Young Children and their Parents Shelia Smith, Mercedes Ekono and Taylor Robbins, September 2014.

National Human Services Assembly

Breaking the Cycle of Poverty in Young Families Two-Generation Strategies for Working with Disconnected Young Parents & Their Children. National Human Services Assembly, December 2013.

Working Poor Families Project

Considering Two Generation Strategies in the States, Meegan Dugan Bassett, Summer 2014.



A Two-Generation Strategy: Right from the Start, Voices for Utah’s Children. August, 2014.

 A Two-Generation Approach to Ending Poverty in Utah, Voices for Utah’s Children.  June, 2014.


Investing in Hope: A Two-Generation Approach to Asset Building.  Colorado Department of Human Services, CFED and Ascend at the Aspen Institute, 2014.


National Governor’s Association Center for Best Practices report on Two-Generation Policy interventions.

Alliance for Early Success—State Policies to Help Families Support the Healthy Development of Their Children  (Working Title).

Save the date! The FES Coalition Policy Academy is here

On December 18th the FES Coalition will be hosting our first FES Policy Academy at the Legislative Office Building in Hartford, right by the Capitol.


What is the FES Policy Academy?

The FES Policy Academy is short, intensive conference focused on giving community leaders the tools to become effective advocates at the state Capitol. This half day event will include workshops on the legislative process and how to keep track of legislation, testify at the Capitol, have successful meetings with legislators, and be an effective storyteller.

Our main idea is simple: your voice is important, and we want to make sure it is heard. Our objective is to help community leaders, case workers, service providers and board members learn the tools that will make them effective advocates.


The FES Policy Academy will be focused on two main areas: why advocacy from service providers and clients is both important and powerful, and how can non-profits be successful in their advocacy efforts. We will start with the basics of the legislative process, and bring in legislators  and advocates to discuss how to bring change to it. Our objective is to spark action, not just teach.

  • When: December 18th, from 9:30 am to 1 pm (including lunch)
  • Where: Legislative Office Building, 300 Capitol Avenue, Hartford, Connecticut - Directions
  • Registration is available through this link. Seating is limited - make sure to register as soon as possible - not many seats left!
  • 9:30 to 9:45: Opening remarks - Jim Horan, CAHS Executive Director
  • 9:45 to 10:15: Introduction to the legislative process - Susan Keane, Appropriations.
  • 10:15 to 10:45: The power of advocacy - a panel with state legislators
  • 10:45 to 11: break
  • 11 to 12:35: breakout sessions  - two rounds of workshops.
  • 12:35 to 1:15: lunch
Available workshops:
The workshops will cover how to testify effectively, how to organize effective meetings with legislators, tools and resources to keep track of legislation, how to contact legislators, and how to collect stories from clients and make your case at the Capitol.
Seating is limited - registration is available through this link.

Two generation strategies for learning: a Kids Count report.


The Annie E. Casey Foundation has released a report focusing on two generation learning and education strategies to improve the lives of children.

CAHS and Connecticut Coalition on Children presented the report at the Legislative Office Building in Hartford on November 12th on a community forum that included community organizations, parents, advocates and legislators to talk about the issues facing low income families in Connecticut and the opportunities and challenges a two generational approach to learning can open. Sarah Griffin, Senior Consultant for the Annie E. Casey Foundation, presented the report, discussing its main points and addressing its policy recommendations.

You can download the report here.  You can download the PowerPoint slides on the report  here. Video of the full event here, embedded after the jump.


Best practices in asset building - a peer learning session

The Connecticut Asset Building Collaborative hosted our first session of our Peer Learning Network. The tittle of the session was "Lessons Learned: VITA and Financial Education Best Practices"


Our presenters, Lucille Sclafani (CAHS´ VITA Coordinator, center), Laura O´Keefe ( Family Financial Stability Coordinator, Village for Children and Families, right) and Andrew Geisert (Economic Empowerment Program Director at FSW, left) each focused on different areas. Lucille focused on effective strategies to promote asset building on VITA sites, with a focus on targeted programs and effective communications strategies. Laura covered how to manage volunteers successfully, with a focus on engagement and retention, and Andrew covered how to use data effectively, informing strategies and improving outcomes.

You can find the materials for each of their presentations on this link, as well as other resources that were mentioned and reviewed during the session. The presenter´s expertise on this field is wide ranging, having run complex, multi-agency coalitions with hundred of volunteers for years, so the discussion covered a lot of ground. The event also enabled the participants to establish new connections, bringing new ideas and partners for VITA and asset building, and new and potentially better services for the community.

Thanks to all of you that made it to the event - we hope this was the first of many. Hope to see you all in our next session!

Link of the day: the case for heavier babies

Have you ever wondered why CAHS´Kids Count Data Book includes information on low birth weight babies? As you probably know, this is an indicator of the health of the mother during pregnancy, and has a strong effect on child development.

How strong? The New York Times published on Sunday a review of a new study linking birth weight and school achievement, and the results are striking. On average a 10 pound baby will score 80 points higher on the 1,600 point SAT than a 6 pound one. This is the difference between being quite a bit below the median (6-pound babies score in the 43rd percentile) or above it (10-pound babies score on average in the 57th).

Poor neonatal health, then, is crucial not just during pregnancy, but has long term cognitive effects. You can find the full study here.


Student loans and public service

Last Friday CAHS participated on a round table with Senator Richard Blumenthal and Senator Chris Murphy at the Hartford YWCA. The main topic was student debt, and more specifically, on how student loans hinder the graduate's capacity to pursue public services careers.

Although there is currently a Federal loan forgiveness program for students pursuing public services jobs, the current rules are clunky and inflexible: an individual is required to remain ten years on these occupations without interruption or face stiff penalties. Both Connecticut US Senators are sponsoring a bill to improve this program. In 2012 the average student finished college with $29,400 in debt.

On Friday's round table many care givers, non profit advocates, teachers and other public servants shared their stories (you can read some of them here) about struggling with debt and having to postpone major life decisions (having a kid, buying a house, saving for retirement) as they face their loan payments. Pictures from the event after the jump.




Analysis: census data shows persistent poverty in the state


CAHS and the Coalition on Human Needs (CHN) have released an analysis reviewing the latest census poverty data for Connecticut and the rest of the nation.  The new figures show a state than far from coming back from the recession stronger, is leaving more families behind.

Although the recession officially ended in 2009, poverty has increased in the last four years: 9.4% of Connecticut´s population was below the Federal Poverty Line in 2009, compared to 10.7% last year. Children are still the hardest hit, as well as minorities. To make things worse, inequality got even worse - the income of the top 1% of US earners grew by 31.4% since the end of the recession, compared to 0.4% to the other 99% of Americans.

You can download the full report here, with additional details regarding education, inequality, access to jobs and food insecurity.

A look at inequality

Inequality, both regarding income and wealth, is slowly getting back to our national debate. The benefits of economic growth in the past three decades have increasingly been going to those at the top of the income distribution, while wages remain flat for the middle class or even slowly decline for the poor.

Although inequality has been trending up in most developed nations, the United States is an outlier on the magnitude of this shift. Consider this, using data from Atkinson, Piketty and Saez (original graph):



In this graph there are two outliers with growing inequality in the past two or three decades: Sweden (that goes from being extraordinarily equal to just very egalitarian) and US. In our case, the US goes from having more or less average levels of inequality to being far and beyond any other developed nation.

Today at the CLASS conference we gave a presentation on the rise of inequality both in the US and in Connecticut, offering a lot more data and graphs showing how things have changed in the country in the last 30 years, and offering some policy ideas on the effects of these growing disparities and how we can address them. You can download the Powerpoint from our presentation here (PDF) o you can have a look at the slides after the jump.

Inequality in Connecticut:


Bold ideas for early childhood

What if we paid our most at risk parents a minimum wage to go back to school to gain a high school diploma or gain employability skills while their children are in preschool?  During the September Early Childhood Alliance meeting Governor Malloy floated this very idea.  Some might find this idea absurd, but Connecticut is at a poverty crossroad and maybe it’s time to consider bold initiatives. ZGov.jpg

Poverty in Connecticut is reaching epidemic proportions. Despite various strategies and valiant efforts we are going backwards. In fact, over the past 25 years, childhood poverty has increased by 50%. Today, in Connecticut, almost 30% of the children are living in poverty or near poverty. For many of the most in need parents,  a lack of education and the problem of illiteracy obstruct their personal and economic success, limit the pre-literacy skills of their children and contribute to a  cycle of poverty that repeats through generations. This is not a small problem.  Recent census data show that about 4,000 children are born in Connecticut each year to a mother that has not completed high school. Additionally 5,000 more children are born to a mother who has no education past high school.

When a parent does not have a high school diploma or career skills training then the chances of the family rising out of poverty are slim. In Connecticut 58% of mothers who did not complete high school are not securely employed. A large percentage of these families are living in poverty and receiving state assistance.  The stresses of living in poverty have an effect on family, children and community. With today’s highly skilled workforce, there is little opportunity for career.

What is more disconcerting is that the chances for the children of undereducated parents to be successful in school are significantly impacted. Connecticut eighth grade proficiency tests show that of those children with a mother lacking high school, only 22 % demonstrate reading proficiency and only 14% demonstrate proficiency in math.  40% of these children don’t graduate from high school on time. The cycle of intergenerational poverty continues.

Yet parents living in poverty do not have the means to go back to school.  Their only option is to work minimum wage unskilled jobs.  They are often part time, include odd hours and have work schedules that vary from week to week.  This does not allow for educational opportunity or workforce training that could lead to secure employment and financial independence, hardly a recipe for state prosperity.

So what if we recognize that all parents want their children to thrive and be successful.  What if we take a leap of faith and encourage new thinking to help families navigate a way up and out of poverty?

We can turn a blind eye to our neighbors who have been born into poverty or we can stare families straight in the face and like Governor Malloy, imagine bold solutions.

The rich are indeed getting richer

Via Kevin Drum, a quick look at the share of national wealth in the hands of the top 3% of Americans, as compared to the bottom 90%:


The data comes from the Federal Reserve´s 2013 Survey of Consumer Finances. In 1989 the top 3% were already ahead by 11 points. 24 years later, the distance has climbed to 30.

It is important to stress that this is something fairly new. The United States was in 1970 one of the most egalitarian societies in the developed world, with an income distribution not that different from what we could see in Germany or Sweden. Starting in the early eighties things suddenly changed, and the US became a remarkable outlier in this regard, with only the UK coming even close. The rise of inequality in the United States was certainly not inevitable, by any means.

get updates