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Strengthening mother and child: A family-centered approach to promoting self-sufficiency

Jeremiah Program is a nonprofit organization that aims to put families on a positive trajectory toward self-sufficiency.

Consistent with President Trump’s Executive Order on Reducing Poverty in America by Promoting Opportunity and Economic Mobility, HHS’s Strategic Plan sets goals for HHS to encourage self-sufficiency and personal responsibility, eliminate barriers to economic opportunity, and to prepare children and youth for healthy, productive lives. This blog is part of the Self-Sufficiency Series: Solutions from the Field, which profiles local programs from across the country finding solutions to accomplish these goals.

Helping families achieve self-sufficiency and economic success is one of the goals of both President Trump’s Executive Order on Reducing Poverty and HHS’s Strategic Plan. Family-centered approaches, which work with both parents and their children, hold great promise because they not only empower parents to attain economic independence but also invest in the future by providing children with a strong foundation for a lifetime of achievement. HHS invests in these approaches through programs such as Head Start, the Child Care and Development Fund and others.

As noted in the Executive Order, government is just one part of the solution, and we must also empower the private sector and local communities. Jeremiah Program, for example, is a nonprofit organization that aims to put families on a positive trajectory toward self-sufficiency and reduce generational dependence on public assistance. Jeremiah helps low-income single mothers complete their education while providing access to high-quality early childhood education that readies their children for a successful future. The program is primarily funded through private donations, although participants may be eligible for federal and local child care and housing subsidies. According to a 2013 evaluation by Wilder Research, private funders invested about $63,000 per family during participants’ nearly 30 months of stay in the program. This investment generated $185,486 in benefits and savings, or a return of $3.93 for every private dollar invested. Separately, the evaluator found savings from decreased dependence on government assistance, as well as second-generation benefits such as savings from costs associated with crime and special education.

Mothers in the program are provided a range of supports, including individualized coaching and life skills training. The program makes quality child care readily accessible to mothers, often in the same building where the families live, which allows the mothers to focus on their own education and career development. Mothers pursue a two- or four-year college degree and choose a career track. The program also provides safe and affordable housing to the family and parent coaching to enhance the mothers’ ability to improve their child’s development.Within this safe environment, Jeremiah works to build a supportive community that fosters personal growth and self-confidence through positive relationships.

This two-generation approach to providing high-quality child care in addition to parent support seems to be working: Jeremiah Program reports that 81 percent of children who attended a Jeremiah child development center are performing at or above grade level in elementary or middle school. In addition to positive child outcomes, parents who graduate from Jeremiah increase their earnings by 68 percent while in the program.

One mother’s work with Jeremiah led her to apply to North Dakota State University, and today, she is pursuing a degree in human development and family science/elementary education. “I can’t wait to become the teacher I have always wanted to be and just have a better life and opportunities for my daughter,” she said. Another mother participated in program because she found that “the organization is built on supporting the child’s education, as well as the mother’s. I wanted to be a part of a community that cared about me and my child.”

The combination of educational support, career coaching, and quality early childhood education can help families achieve self-sufficiency today and ensure that prosperity continues across generations. Jeremiah is one exciting example of a promising strategy communities are using to promote opportunity and economic mobility, two generations at a time – a goal they share with HHS.

The Jeremiah Program offers affordable housing, childcare, education and career coaching for mothers and children.

Content last reviewed on July 20, 2018

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