Gateways to Two Generations: The Potential for Early Childhood Programs and Partnerships to Support Children and Parents Together


By: Joan Lombardi, Anne Mosle, Nisha Patel, Rachel Schumacher, and Jennifer Stedron

Americans have always relied on a set of core beliefs that fall under the umbrella of “The American Dream.” Hard work. Equal opportunity. Optimism. However, many feel these values are in jeopardy; many parents have a growing unease about the future — their own futures and their children’s futures. Major shifts in family demographics and structure, as well as in the skills and education required by the economy, mandate a change in how we help families succeed.

  • Two-generation approaches, which focus on creating opportunities for and meeting the needs of vulnerable children and their parents together, move the whole family toward educational success and economic security. Ascend is the national hub for two- generation approaches.

In Gateways to Two Generations, Ascend considers the question: Will two-generation approaches applied to the early childhood development arena produce better outcomes for both children and parents?
The two-generation framework draws on a history of efforts to address the needs of both children and parents while capitalizing on the implications of what science has demonstrated: the development of children and parents is inextricably linked. Parents gain motivation to succeed from their children, and vice versa; their efforts are mutually reinforcing. The two-generation framework posits that when opportunities for children and parents are approached in the sum of the separate parts.

The two-generation framework lays out three core components needed to address family vulnerabilities and make the American Dream for economic security and stability more viable:

  • high-quality education for children and postsecondary education and skills training for parents;
  • economic supports and asset building that provide a scaffold for families as they work to develop skills that lead stability; and
  • social capital and networks that build on the strength and resilience of families.

(Health and well-being is also part of the framework and will be explored further in additional publications.)

Source: The Ascend Institute

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