October 24, 2014 – Last week, Michigan’s Children, in partnership with the Policy Committee of the Black Child Development Institute – Detroit, organized a FamilySpeak forum focusing on two-generation strategies. This FamilySpeak featured organizations in Detroit and Wayne County that serve families with children in a holistic manner and included the following organizations:
The Coalition on Temporary Shelter (COTS);
Families on the Move, which supports foster and adoptive caregivers;
Stand Up Parents! Great Start Wayne County Parent Coalition; and
Wayne Children’s Healthcare Access Program (WCHAP).
These organizations brought parents to talk about the challenges they have faced and how these programs have assisted them. We heard from parents who discussed challenges being in domestic violence situations, parents with diagnosed mental illnesses and the challenges they faced parenting, parents who have struggled with their children’s health issues, former foster care kids who are now adoptive and foster care parents themselves, and more.
This FamilySpeak forum made clear some opportunities to better support more of Michigan’s challenged families through better investment in two-generation approaches. What the families told us is that traditional programs serving them are essential, but in many instances may not be enough. Existing two-generation programs that Michigan’s Children has advocated for a long time include Head Start and Early Head Start, evidence-based home visiting, high quality child care, and adult literacy and education. What families shared at our FamilySpeak forum was that the programs they were connected to went above those traditional two-generation programs by also addressing a particular struggle they were facing.
For example, several women discussed being in domestic violence situations and their challenge with leaving that unsafe environment included being financially dependent on their abuser. One of the women spoke about the program that she was connected to giving her the opportunity to leave that unsafe environment by connecting her to basic needs like shelter, clothing and food. Additionally, her children were able to attend a high quality child care while she worked to stabilize her mental health struggles, secure permanent housing, and obtain family-supporting income. She epitomized a success story coming out of a two-generation program. Unfortunately, too many other families do not have access to these types of programs due to insufficient programmatic resources for the two-generation strategies that exist, and limited connectivity between those strategies and other needs that families may have.
All of the programs at our FamilySpeak forum exemplified two-generation approaches that help children thrive while parents move ahead. We are so thankful to the organizations that assisted us in recruiting families, and to the adults who were brave enough to share their very personal stories to ensure a successful FamilySpeak. Fortunately we weren’t the only one’s hearing the information. The families were speaking to a listening panel of local, county, and state-level policymakers. Michigan’s Children is committed to continuing to make family voices heard after the election, and we will all need to hold elected officials accountable for decisions to support two-generation strategies.
Read this brief recap of the FamilySpeak and the policy implications coming out of that forum.