Strengthening Two-Generation Initiatives That Support Child Development and Improve Family Economic Security
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation
- NS2G had three objectives: (1) To conduct formative research to better understand initiative implementation, strengthen promising initiatives, and prepare for evaluations of effectiveness; (2) To build the capacity of initiatives and researchers to conduct rigorous and meaningful evaluations of two-generation initiatives; and (3) To address measurement issues to promote learning across evaluations and a better understanding of relevant processes and outcomes of two-generation initiatives.
- The initiatives participating in the formative evaluations aimed to improve the intentional alignment and coordination of their services. They developed and tested improvement strategies to streamline processes, such as intake and referrals, and to build staff knowledge and capacity, such as by developing training and examining staff members’ use of time. The formative evaluation work also promoted communication with partners. Two initiatives’ improvement strategies entailed exploring opportunities to strengthen communication with partners, including data sharing.
- The initiatives participating in the learning community reported that they developed logic models and data systems, and they began work to identify and develop program improvement strategies. Four reported working on their two-generation logic models. All reported strengthening their two-generation data systems, with two reporting they adopted a new data system that supported family-level analyses of services and outcomes for primary caregivers and their children. Three reported examining data to assess alignment with the logic model and considering ways to improve the alignment.
- Additional program and research development is needed to continue building evaluation capacity. Initiatives in the formative evaluations reported obstacles to strengthening services and improving readiness for summative evaluation, including entering and using program data and ongoing staff capacity limitations and turnover. Many of the initiatives participating in the NS2G learning community engaged in key developmental activities, such as documenting and refining a logic model and implementing a two-generation data system that could link caregiver and child records. As these systems are implemented and initiatives begin to use data to better understand how their services are working, initiatives indicated they would continue to identify additional ways to improve and expand.
Two-generation initiatives intentionally combine intensive, high quality adult-focused services with intensive, high quality child-focused programs to improve outcomes for children, primary caregivers, and families. The goal of integrating services for primary caregivers and their children is to achieve better outcomes than those accomplished by serving each generation in isolation (Chase-Lansdale and Brooks-Gunn 2014; Sama-Miller et al. 2017). Research suggests that to effectively support families, these services should be high quality, intensive, and intentionally aligned (Sama-Miller et al. 2017).
The Next Steps for Rigorous Research on Two-Generation Approaches (NS2G) project was sponsored by the Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation (OPRE) in the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) to build the evidence base for fully integrated, intentional models for two-generation service delivery with adequate intensity and quality of services for caregivers and their children. This report describes the experiences and activities of two-generation initiatives participating in NS2G and shares findings, lessons, and common themes from their participation in formative evaluations and a learning community.