RD18 - Report to the Virginia General Assembly on the Two-Generation/Whole Family Pilot Project for 2020/21

Executive Summary:

The FY 2020 and FY2021 Virginia State Budget included provisions for the Community Action Agency (CAA) Two-Generation/Whole Family Pilot Project and provided $1.125 million from the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) block grant. The goal of this pilot project is to test and evaluate concepts and specific interventions that represent two-generation or whole family approaches to move families out of poverty in a variety of communities throughout the Commonwealth. VDSS intends to evaluate the pilot program and disseminate information about the results and impact of this multi-generational approach over a five-year period, releasing information and progress on the pilot annually, with the hope that it will accelerate the development of two-generation or whole family strategies by increasing knowledge about what families need and what works.

In FY2020, VDSS developed a program design and Request for Applications built on supporting pilot projects in CAAs of varied size, capacity, and geographic locations. The program design set the following priorities/goals:

• Support selected families in achieving self-sufficiency;

• Utilize Family Coaching models and Family Coaches, to ensure that the pilot project receives dedicated support for families at each of the selected agencies throughout the project;

• Document and learn from activities and outcomes achieved by parents, children and families in different places around the state;

• Increase knowledge of the barriers families face and the cost of helping families overcome the barriers and achieve their goals; and

• Replicate, improve, or expand pilot activities that work in future years.

The beginning of the project focused on selecting six pilot sites through a competitive Request for Application (RFA) and developing a Virginia Two-Generation/Whole Family Approach Community of Practice (COP). The entire project involves the continuous support of all the selected agencies by the National Community Action Partnership. The first year of the project included hiring family coaches at each of the sites, developing agency-specific program designs, enrolling and serving families, beginning collection of data and tracking of outcomes, and development of comprehensive logic models and theories of change. Key tactics used to achieve the above outputs included providing intensive technical assistance on various aspects of designing and implementing a whole family approach, training related to intake and outcome tracking tools and best practices, and frequent peer sharing and learning meetings. Agencies began identifying and selecting families in early-to-mid 2020.

The first two years of the Virginia Two-Generation/Whole Family Approach Pilot Project implementation accomplishments include:

• Selection of six pilot sites through a competitive Request for Application (RFA);

• Hiring of family coaches at each site (by March 2020);

• Development and implementation of specific agency whole family program designs;

• Enrollment of families; and

• Data collection.

Just as the pilot sites began enrolling families in March 2020, Virginia communities began feeling the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. It is important to note that many planned services such as continuing education efforts for parents and early childhood education for young children were delayed, scaled back, or paused – and remained so throughout 2021. Families with school-age children have experienced significant challenges including needing to delay employment and job searches due to lack of childcare. Each of the agencies have been engaged in providing supports as well as crisis services to families in response to these unprecedented conditions.

Essential supports such as food and other nutritional assistance were critical as food insecurity escalated with more family members at home for meals and incomes reduced or eliminated due to reduced hours or unemployment. The VDSS technical assistance provider, the National Community Action Partnership (Partnership) provided extensive support to assist the pilot sites in navigating through the shifts in service delivery and refinement of design plan elements brought about by the pandemic. Despite the unpredictability of the circumstances, each of the pilot sites engaged in several impressive innovations to continue support for their customers. In addition to leveraging technology to maintain engagement, sites have also found creative ways to use project funding to meet families’ needs during the pandemic and recovery.

The support provided by the family coaches has helped families begin to get a foothold on more solid ground that positions them to move forward with sufficient time and continued support. Family progress does take time, and that is even truer during the unprecedented pandemic. Even with these challenges, the sites were able to complete their first-year plans and have retained and continued their work with the original families during the second year of the pilot project.

At the conclusion of the second year, 91 households and a total of 323 persons have been enrolled in the pilot project. In the second-year, sites collected data on family demographics, services, and outcomes. The Partnership collected customer satisfaction information from approximately 33% of participating families. This quantitative and qualitative data indicate that despite the pandemic, sites have been able to retain families and help them move forward as evidenced by the following results:

o Sixty-three percent of households participating are single-parent, female headed households. Forty-one percent of households enrolled in the pilot have incomes below 50 percent of the Federal Poverty Guideline (FPG), and for a family of three; this is an annual income of $10,980. Of the 91 households participating, 67 have employment income.

o Families complete a Life Cycle assessment that looks at functioning across 15 domains. The first assessment and last assessment were compared and initial analysis of progress to date indicates average scores have increased in every domain. The largest gains are seen in the employment/income, financial management, and community involvement domains. Many of the sites have provided employment related supports, financial empowerment training, and credit repair which may have contributed to the increases in the employment/income and financial management domains. Pilot sites have also provided social capital building opportunities and mental health supports which may have helped to increase families' feelings of connectedness to others in the community.

o Over the two-year period, income changes have been recorded for 41 of the 91 households enrolled. Of these 41 households, 26 households have increased income, 13 households decreased income, and 2 reported no change. The remaining households did not have an income change recorded which likely means there was no change in income over the two-year period. This data indicates 26 percent of the households enrolled have achieved an increase in earned income during the first two years, and during a worldwide pandemic and economic crisis.

o All six pilot sites have been recording outcomes for families. Additional data collection and analysis is needed, but it is clear families have secured living wage jobs, obtained certifications, secured reliable transportation, avoided eviction improved credit and financial well-being, improved mental health and family functioning, and prepared children for kindergarten (See Table 4. for details)

o A customer satisfaction survey was completed by 33% of families. One question asked families to compare their feeling of empowerment to achieve personal goals when they started to their current feeling. The average response was 2.8 (Scale 1= not true, 2=somewhat true, and 3=very true) representing a strong feeling or belief that they can control the trajectory of their lives. This feeling of power and autonomy is a critical driver or component of economic mobility.

o The customer satisfaction survey also asked families to use a sliding scale (0= unsatisfied, 100= extremely satisfied) to indicate their level of satisfaction of services received while participating in the pilot, respondents indicated a resounding 92.8% satisfaction rate.

Though challenged by COVID-19 related issues, the six Two-Generation/Whole Family Approach Pilot Project sites have established the conditions for families to advance and improve their well-being. As sites advance deeper into implementation of their whole family approach, data continues to be analyzed, and as families have more time to recover from the pandemic and pursue their goals, the pilot project will begin to reveal more answers about what works, where it works, who it works for and why.