The National Human Services Assembly Calls for Investment in Young Families•
The National Human Services Assembly, one of Opportunity Nation’s coalition partners, is shedding light on the needs of America’s young families.
Today, there are 1.4 million young people ages 15-24 who are disconnected from school and work, yet who are raising children.
Research shows that children’s academic success is strongly linked to their mother’s education level, a healthy family life and economic stability. If we want to ensure that future generations have the tools they need to thrive, helping both these young parents and their children is a sound approach, according to the Assembly.
The organization recently released a new report, “Breaking the Cycle of Poverty in Young Families.” With so many young parents out of work and not in school, it is unlikely that they will be in the position to support themselves and their children. As these children become adults, they are often unable to move up the ladder of opportunity and economic mobility, reinforcing a cycle of poverty that too often is difficult to break.
To interrupt this cycle, the NHSA advises investing in high-quality two-generation programs that create the conditions necessary for young families to break out of poverty. Two-generation programs strategically serve parents and children individually and as a singular family unit. The programs aim to re-engage young parents in education and/or work; strengthen parent-child relationships; enhance children’s well-being; and connect families with economic, social and other supports.
While some nonprofits working to connect more youth to academic and career pathways have advocated two–generation approaches for decades, there are few widely-accessible publications with concrete success stories. To address this gap, the NHSA conducted a study of existing two-generation approaches to highlight program elements with proven track records of strengthening young families.
Along with an extensive literature review, the NHSA interviewed 17 national organizations about two-generation practices in their network and conducted qualitative interviews with local practitioners. Finally, the NHSA reviewed case studies to pinpoint common practices with positive outcomes.
The NHSA report includes a strong argument about the urgency of investing in these young families. “When young people are unemployed and lack basic job credentials, governments spend more money to support them over the long run,” the report found.
Research in the field concludes that there will be a positive return on investment in programs that allow disconnected youth to earn a high school diploma. Society will benefit by decreases in long-term public assistance, a drop in crime and the economic gains resulting from a more educated workforce. Individuals and communities benefit, the report argues, as the Unites States’ economic prosperity is directly linked to the capacity of today’s youth to contribute to the economy.