“For America to eliminate poverty and advance broader well-being, significant changes are needed to the ways in which public policy, public programs, and support services are arranged, funded, and implemented.” **

The Whole Family (or 2-Generation/2 Gen) Approach is not a particular program or group of programs. It “involves identifying the factors that undermine a family’s overall well-being, then working with the family to solve problems, access new resources, and sharpen existing skills. A responsive, holistic, family-centered mindset differs significantly from the dominant approach to public anti-poverty efforts, which rely on a dizzying array of discrete programs, each focused on a specific piece of the poverty puzzle (housing, health, nutrition, employment, etc.) and each limited to people of a certain age, a certain income level, or other characteristic.” *

According to the Ascend at the Aspen Institute, evidence is accumulating that children perform better behaviorally and academically in families with stable employment, rising incomes, and increasing levels of education. However, low-income parents of children in Early Childhood Education (ECE) centers may face numerous barriers to achieving economic security for their families, thus decreasing their child’s chance for optimal development and future school success. 2-Gen/ Whole Family Approaches focus equally and intentionally on services and opportunities for the child and the adults in their lives. They articulate and track outcomes for both children and adults simultaneously to move children and their parents toward educational success and economic security.

Our agency began learning about the Whole Family Approach in 2017 by joining a delegation of County government and non-profit agencies which travelled to CAP Tulsa, an early adopter of this approach, for a site visit and to learn about their agency’s work.
We were selected to attend the site visit because our agency has several early childhood programs: Head Start/Early Head Start program, AVANCE , an evidence-based program for Spanish-speaking children and their parents from 0-3 years of age, and Pasitossm Play Groups, an evidence-informed program designed by CAP Sonoma staff for Spanish speaking families with children 3-5 years of age. All of these programs promote kindergarten readiness and parent engagement as their child’s first teacher. Since we have programs that serve both parents and their children, we thought that we were already using a Whole Family Approach. The Tulsa visit showed us that there was more to this approach than we thought!

There are 5 Key Components of the Two-Generation Approach: 1) Postsecondary Education and Employment Pathways; 2) Early Childhood Education and Development; 3) Economic Assets; 4) Health and Well-Being; and 5) Social Capital. ** Taken together, these components are the gears that “drive” the family towards long-lasting well-being. The Whole Family Approach helps parents to enhance and protect their children’s gains from participating in early care and education programs and, as a result, helps ECE programs to improve their outcomes for children.

In late 2017, because of the work we had been doing with Whole Family Approach (WFA), we applied for and were accepted into a Learning Community Group through the Community Action Partnerships’ Learning Communities Resource Center. Annie E. Casey Foundation funded the Community Action Economic Mobility Initiative: A Whole Family Approach to Economic Mobility from Poverty. We were one of ten agencies accepted to join the intensive Community of Practice based on work we had already piloted around WFA strategies and programs.

At CAP Sonoma, we are using the Whole Family Approach to move from being transactional to transformational and to create an intergenerational path of opportunity.
In the next edition of this newsletter, CAP Sonoma’s transformation efforts into a 2-Gen/Whole Family agency will be described.

Susan Cooper, Executive Director
CAP Sonoma

*Framing Two-Generation Approaches to Supporting Families Ascend- Aspen Institute 2019

** Two Generation Playbook Aspen Ascend 2017