- Build best practices and policies in two-generational work across New England
- Showcase state innovations and outcomes in a whole-family approach to jobs
- Build continuous peer-learning across states in Administration for Children and Families, Regions 1 and 4
- Link business worker shortage to under and unemployed families
- Assure authentic parent engagement and input in all component strategies
- Work across agency and program in strategic planning
The National Conference of State Legislatures and the Administration for Children and Families hosted the second New England convening on A Whole Family Approach to Jobs in Portsmouth, N.H., Dec. 3-5.
Work from the six participating states was showcased, and attention to the cross-state workgroups offered further insights and strategies to address the benefit cliff effect, create family-centered service delivery, and link worker shortages to the unemployed and underemployed. A two-generation lens assured focus on both optimal child development and the economic strength of families.
Key stakeholders were present throughout the three days. New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu offered welcoming remarks and first lady Valerie Sununu moderated a panel on early childhood education and workforce. Deputy Assistant Secretary Steve Wagner presented on federal policy levers and participated in discussions throughout the meeting. U.S. Health and Human Services Regional Director John McGough moderated a panel on the cliff effect, with participants recommending federal and state policy changes to avert the cliff effect and incentivize work. Parents were engaged through a parent-only panel and had seats on most other panels, offering personal narratives to improve policy solutions.
Legislators, executive branch leaders, community organizations, business and philanthropy contributed their perspectives, offering a comprehensive view of the opportunities to improve whole-family practice and policy. Panels addressed content areas including the worker shortage, the opioid crisis and its impact on the workforce and the family, the cliff effect, early care from a two-generation vantage point and how young families fare within state service delivery systems. States developed action plans and next steps for the year ahead. ACF Regional Administrator Carlis Williams and a delegation from Tennessee were among the representatives from Region 4.
Session Summaries and Resources
Not About Us Without Us Parent Panel
The convening began with a parent panel titled “Not About Us Without Us.” The discussion was facilitated by Senator Marilyn Moore (D-Conn.) and featured four parents. The parents told their stories of how a two-generation approach enabled them to move ahead in their lives.
Sarah, a parent from Maine, told her story of economic struggle and the real-life consequences of benefit cliffs. “If I work more than 33 hours, I lose my daycare. If I get a raise I have to work less hours. I am stuck in public housing. Even working full time, by myself with two kids, I cannot afford a regular apartment. I could never afford to pay for everything by myself.”
Delrose, a mother from Massachusetts, talked about the value of mentorship in her life. “Many clients know where they want to go, but we are trying to figure out how to get there. How do I build my skill set? How do I build the tools to get there? Having mentors helped me. They weren’t necessarily family but understood what my skill set was and created opportunities to open doors, and have my voice heard.”
Jose, a father from Massachusetts, touched hearts with his personal turn-around story and the impact it has had on his daughter. “Where I came from, I was raised on nothing. My mom couldn’t really give us a lot, so we decided to take to the streets. The streets led us to getting in trouble and arrested. There was one point when I had my daughter that I got arrested for the second time. I realized this is not right. I can’t be doing this to my daughter. It was only 30 days, but I had never been away from my daughter. I decided to quit the lifestyle. I signed my daughter up for the 2-Gen early care and parenting program. She has learned a lot. So, have I. She has friends. She’s only 3.”
The Story of the New England Economy
Mary Burke, senior economist from the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, offered an overview of the New England economy, where worker shortages exist, and profiles of long-term unemployed residents. A respondent panel included Rhiannon, a parent from Maine, Senator Jason Lewis (D-Mass.), and Rebekah Lashman, a workforce strategies advisor from Massachusetts, all of whom offered observations on how a two-generation approach could contribute to solving the worker shortage.
Federal ACF Presentation
Steven Wagner, principal deputy assistant secretary for the Administration for Children and Families discussed efforts in Washington D.C. to support whole-family approaches, with a focus on helping individuals receiving public assistance gain employment and opportunities available through managed care organizations.
- ReImagine HHS: a message form Secretary Alex Azar, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Each of the six states presented policy innovations, which were followed by peer discussions about the practical implications of planning and implementation.
- Connecticut: Levers for Change: Parent Leadership and Creating 2Gen Incentives
- Maine: Family Futures Downeast Model
- Massachusetts: Lessons from Learn to Earn – TANF Reforms, Earned Income Disregards, and Cross-Regulatory Analyses
- New Hampshire: How Partnerships Influence Programming and Policies
- Rhode Island: Early Childhood Education Ecosystem
- Tennessee: Systems Integration
A panel presentation offered a range of practice and policy tools. Kelly Harder, community services director for Dakota County, Minn., discussed their approach to implementing a benefits cliff calculator for use by families and case workers, as well as visual representations of the impact of the cliffs on families seeking to advance economically.
Following that presentation, former Senator Amy Volk (R-Maine) discussed research completed in 2018 that documents how benefit cliffs in Maine are preventing families from moving ahead. She also and gave an overview of the policy options the Maine team is considering. Finally, Amy Kershaw from Massachusetts presented the regional working group’s policy options on benefits cliffs.
Young Parent Policy
Massachusetts and Rhode Island presented emerging work focused on improving coordination of services across agencies serving young parents. Topics included streamlining case management and coaching across agencies, interagency barriers young parents experience, and the importance of improving state and local policies and practices.
Angel, a parent consultant to the project, shared her story of trying to access child care services for her one-year old daughter while navigating the child welfare system. Senator Ann Pugh (D-Vt.) ended the panel with a discussion on how state lawmakers can address these barriers and support young parents.
Opioid Crisis, Family and Workforce
New Hampshire took center stage as Chris Tappan, associate commissioner for the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services, Dana Lariviere, CEO of the Chameleon Group, Lori Hebert, parent consultant to the New Hampshire state team and local pharmacist Mathew Dodge presented strategies for employing parents in recovery. Discussion focused on the importance of businesses recognizing they can expand their talent pipeline with committed workers in recovery. The New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services discussed how they are connecting workers in recovery to businesses, and a parent chronicled her journey through recovery to employment.
Early Care Through a Two-Generation Lens: Child Care as a Work Support
New Hampshire first lady Valerie Sununu moderated a panel discussion about ways to connect early care and education efforts with workforce outcomes. The panel featured Connecticut’s home visiting employment incentive model, UTEC-Lowell’s strategy to engage young men who are parents through employment while providing on-site child care and Vermont’s workforce strategy to engage the early childhood education field in employment strategies.
Five discussions on key topics related to whole-family approaches to jobs:
- The New Hampshire team discussed how they are constructing effective pathways to work.
- Dan Stein from the Stewards of Change Institute presented work on data interoperability.
- NCSL staff and Charles Bryson, associate commissioner of Family Assistance and Child Support for the Tennessee Department of Human Services, facilitated a discussion on how child support can be leveraged to support noncustodial parent employment.
- Melvette Hill, a parent leadership consultant with the Connecticut General Assembly’s Commission on Women, Children & Seniors, led a conversation about how states can bring parents to the table as partners in policy making.
- Cherrell Campbell-Street, deputy commissioner of programs and services with the Tennessee Department of Human Services, highlighted Tennessee’s efforts to create systems and culture change in their agency to better serve children and families.
The last panel featured CVS Health’s employee training strategy, which offers training and paid work experiences that lead to employment as pharmacy technicians.