Checklist to View Policy Investments Through a Whole Family Lens
An important way to assess how policy investments – and the technical assistance that support the success of those investments – are made is through a two-generation (2Gen), whole family lens. The following checklist, developed by Ascend and the Department of Education for career staff in the department in 2016, is an illustrative example of a set of measures against which an organization can assess investments.
Developing Agency and Program Initiatives and Priorities
As staff is designing policies, initiatives, and programs, keep in mind that a 2Gen approach will take into account the holistic needs of the entire family in addition to the individual needs of children and adults. The following three steps serve as a starting point for using a 2Gen lens.
Identify Appropriate Outcomes
Consider outcome data already being collected by partnering agencies; what can we know from the existing program data (e.g., measurable skill gains collected on participants in adult education programs or attainment of certification from a community college)?
- What should be the intended outcomes for parents (or other adult caregivers) based on our program resources and activities as well as an assessment of parent needs?
- Are these sufficient to achieve our mission? How, in turn, are these parent outcomes dependent on or related to resources available to their children? What should be the intended outcomes for children based on our program resources and activities as well as an assessment of child needs?
- Are these sufficient to achieve our mission? How, in turn, are these child outcomes dependent on or related to resources available to their parents? Ultimately, what should be the intended outcome(s) for the entire family?
- How are community-level outcomes being considered? How are those outcomes defined (e.g., housing stability, higher educational attainment for one or both generations, advancement from one income bracket to the next, the end to intergenerational poverty)?
- Will achieving the outcomes we have selected for children and parents get us to supporting children and families’ long-term educational success and economic stability?
Design the Right Conceptual Framework
- Does the program actively seek to provide complementary activities (e.g., if the parent is working, child care must at least cover work hours) that produce separate parent-focused or child-focused outcomes (e.g., skill attainment, career advancement, school readiness)?
- Does the program actively seek to augment the delivery models with mutually reinforcing activities? In other words, does a physical move to new housing or a new neighborhood provide both a safe family home and opportunities for community-building and social-capital development with other families?
- Does the program actively seek to produce robust multiplier effects within the family unit itself? In other words, does the program specifically target child-, parent-, and family-level outcomes that will build off one another in the long run even after the program has ended?
Test and Modify
Will achieving the outcomes the program has selected for children and parents achieve that goal? Does the program include specific steps for continuous improvement efforts, including establishing clear short- and long-range measures for:
- collecting data, both quantitative (e.g., through forms) and qualitative data (e.g., through focus groups);
- establishing access to performance management software to generate reports and analyses;
- asking staff, stakeholders, and participants to provide feedback on whether their 2Gen program design goals are being met; and
- making any necessary adjustments to key elements, such as service intensity.
More guidance and context on this checklist can be found here.