Whole Family Approach

Whole Family Approach to Workforce Engagement

What is a multi-generation/whole family approach?

Human services programs and social policies frequently focus only on adults, or only on children. This is even true of many programs and policies explicitly aimed at families. For example, while the goals of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program (TANF) include providing assistance to needy families so that children may be cared for in their own homes, TANF services and performance measures are almost exclusively focused on parents.


A multi-generation or whole family approach to human services is one that focuses on the needs of parents and other adult family members and the needs of children together, and considers the challenges and resources of family members outside of the assistance unit, all out of recognition that children do better when their parents are healthy and stable, and that parents do better when their children are healthy and stable.


Why use a multi-generation/whole family approach in workforce engagement?

Many of the safety-net programs for low-income families include workforce engagement components aimed at increasing parents’ employment and earnings. Supporting low-income adults in increasing their employment and earnings is a critical component to moving them to a path of self-sufficiency, wellbeing, and greater opportunity for their families.


However, being a working caregiver comes with a number of challenges, and the nature and circumstances of the work can have significant impacts, both positive and negative, on a child’s wellbeing and future. Work and family responsibilities impact working caregivers’ opportunities to participate in education and training. Work can also have an incredible impact on the life trajectories of youth in low-income and other vulnerable families. For these reasons, it is important to use a multi-generation approach to workforce engagement programs and policies.


Multi-generation/Whole Family Practice

Multi-generation/whole family programs are not a new idea. One of the most well-know and successful multi-generation programs in Head Start, which was created nearly 50 years ago. Multi-generation programs in the area of workforce engagement are much less common. The Center for Workforce Employment & Economic Well-Being (CEEWB) plans to highlight innovative workforce programs and initiatives that are using the multi-generation/whole family approach.


Multi-generation/Whole Family Policy

Most federal and state policies do not support two-generation/whole family approaches to workforce engagement. Policies attached to anti-poverty programs often overlook the importance of addressing the needs and utilizing the strengths of all members of the family, including not only custodial parents, but also non-custodial parents. Assistance for low-income families is often contingent upon parents’ participation in work. And yet, the characteristics of the low-wage jobs available to them often perpetuate economic, social, and family instability that anti-poverty programs aim to ameliorate.


The CEEWB will support the human services field in advocating for improved policies that better support working families as a whole and are more conducive to multi-generation/whole family workforce and work support programs that families need to achieve economic and social stability and opportunities for upward mobility.


Read our article that appeared in the April 2016 issue of APHSA's industry magazine Policy & Practice!

Spotlight on...

Tennessee and Utah


Child Support Employment and Parenting Programs

In partnership with the University of Tennessee, College of Social Work, Office of Research and Public Services (UTSWORPS), the Tennessee Department of Human Services (TDHS) funds two child support employment and parenting programs three programs that serve five counties in the eastern part of the state. The programs aim to help unemployed and underemployed noncustodial parents (NCPs) overcome employment barriers, allowing them to better meet their child support obligations and develop stronger relationships with their children. The presentation below reviews a study of the programs. Analysis of payment data showed promising findings. 


TCSEPP and CSEPP: Promising Practices for Two Child Support Employment and Parenting Projects in East Tennessee [Presented at the National Association for Welfare Research and Statistics’ 2015 Annual Workshop – August 2015]


Utah’s Intergenerational Poverty Initiative began in 2012 with the passage of the Intergenerational Poverty Mitigation Act. As part of that legislation, Utah became the first state in the nation to establish and maintain a system to track intergenerational poverty-related data, which is reported annually. In 2013, additional legislation led to the creation of the Intergenerational Poverty Commission made up of the Executive Directors of the state agencies that serve Utah families. In 2014 Utah’s Department of Workforce Services began implementation of the Next Generation Kids pilot program. The program offers intensive, individualized services to parents and children to eliminate barriers to work and health care, and also address other facets of family self-sufficiency.



Ascend at the Aspen Institute is a hub for innovative ideas and collaborations that focus on children and their parents together. Ascend is elevating and investing in two-generation programs, policies, and community solutions. Search for emerging and established two-generation programs across the country using the interactive Promising Programs Map. Also check out its Two-Generation Strategies for WIOA Implementation, Top Ten for 2Gen: Policies and Principles to Advance Two-Generation Efforts, and it's new Report of the Two-Generation Outcomes Working Group (March 2016)


Strengthening TANF Outcomes by Developing Two-Generation Approaches to Build Economic Security

This Information Memoranda was released in April 2016 by ACF's Office of Family Assistance. It discusses opportunities for TANF agencies to strengthen program outcomes by developing two-generation approaches, which meet the needs of children and parents together.


Student Parent Program Finder

College students with children — student parents — often need supports to help them balance their caregiving and financial responsibilities with work, study time, and class. There are many ways to assist student parents and great examples of strategies and programs that can help them. The Instituite for Women's Policy Research's Student Parent Program Finder allows agencies, organizations, and individuals to locate programs across the country that offer supports such as child care, networking opportunities, and help paying expenses.


Papers, Briefs, and Reports

Set Up To Fail: When Low-Wage Work Jeopardizes Parents' and Children's Success

    Julie Vogtman and Karen Schulman, National Women's Law Center, January 2016


Two Generational Strategies to Improve Immigrant Family and Child Outcomes

    Helly Lee, Christina Walker, and Olivia Golden, Center for Law and Social Policy, December 2015


Tackling Intergenerational Poverty: How Governors Can Advance Coordinated Services for Low-Income Parents and Children

    National Governors Association Center for Best Practices, August 2015


Bridging the Gap: Exploring the Intersection of Workforce Development and Child Care

    Gina Adams, Shayne Spaulding, Caroline Heller, The Urban Institute, May 2015


When Brain Science Meets Public Policy: Designing for Outcomes through a Two-Generation Lens – Good Science & Good Common Sense

    Janice M. Gruendel, Ph.D., Institute for Child Success, March 2015


Thriving Children, Successful Parents: A Two-Generation Approach to Policy

    Stephanie Schmit, Hannah Matthews, and Olivia Gordon, Center for Law and Social Policy, June     2014


Work-Family Supports for Low-Income Families: Key Research Findings and Policy Trends

    Pamela Winston, U.S. DHHS, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation, March     2014


Creating Opportunity for Families: A Two-Generation Approach

    Annie E. Casey Foundation, 2014


Promoting Two-Generation Strategies: A Getting-Started Guide for State and Local Policy Makers

    Christopher T. King, Rheagan Coffey, and Tara C. Smith, Foundation for Child Development,     November 2013


Also see resources related to Non-Custodial Parents, Childcare, and Workplace Policies & Job Quality in our Resource Library 

Innovation in Action

CAP Tulsa is one of the largest anti-poverty agencies in Oklahoma that specifically focuses on a two generation approach. CAP Tulsa offers the CareerAdvance® work-readiness program that provides coaching, education, training and job opportunities for CAP Tulsa, Educare and TANF parents with a focus on recipients with young children.


Jeremiah Program is a nationally recognized nonprofit organization using a multi-generation approach to empowering low-income families. Through support for career-track education, safe and affordable housing, and quality early childhood education, the program prepares single mothers to succeed in the workforce, readies their children to succeed in school, and reduces generational dependence on public assistance.


AVANCE is a two-generation education nonprofit working in Texas, New Mexico, and California, dedicated to parental involvement and child development. AVANCE provides culturally appropriate parenting education, empowerment, and community building with early childhood development services to hard-to-reach families. The National Institute for Early Education Research is currently completing a study of the adaptability of AVANCE’s Parent-Child Education Program model in diverse communities.





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