A dual focus on both kids and their parents is needed to ensure a brighter future for children across Tennessee living in low-income families, according to a new report. Photo credit: Lindsey Turner/Flickr.
The quarter-million young children in Tennessee who are growing up in low-income families can succeed in life, but a new report says the best way to get them on the right path requires a focus on both the kids and their parents. It’s called a two-generation approach, and the report outlining the method calls for high-quality early education for kids and access to job training, career paths and other tools for parents. “What’s important about this report is that the two-generation approach is really a lens and not a specific program,” said Linda O’Neal, executive director of the Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth. “It focuses on helping children do better by helping their parents. We know that successful parents help children thrive and, together, they contribute to a stronger economy.” The report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation also points to the importance of skills training and education, and says in nearly 80 percent of low-income families with young children, parents do not have a postsecondary degree. Among the local programs expected to make a significant impact on that lack of education in some families, O’Neal cited the Tennessee Promise scholarship. It covers all the tuition and fees for high school graduates who want to attend one of the state’s community or technical schools. “This has great potential to assist young families in improving their education and developing jobs skills,” she said. “The number of applicants has far exceeded expectations, and I think it’s a very positive indication of the desire both parents and their children have to improve their prospects for success.” About 56,000 students already have applied for the Tennessee Promise scholarship, which will be awarded for the first time to the class of 2015. There is no limit on the number of students who can take part, although to keep the scholarship they must maintain a grade point average of 2.0 or better and complete eight hours of community service each term. The report, “Creating Opportunity for Families: A Two-Generation Approach,” is online at AECF.org.