Fall Forum Focuses on Programs That Educate Children, Their Parents

CCF Fall Forum

From left: Tizita Seifu from Harmony Counseling Center; Li-Lin Huang, a graduate student in human development and early childhood disorders; and Dr. Jackie Meeks from Cook Children’s Health Care System listened to a presentation at the Center for Children and Families’ fall forum.

With an eye on increasing community dialogue and, ultimately, empowering low-income families, the Center for Children and Families (CCF) centered its recent fall forum on a strategy that provides educational opportunities for both young children and their parents.

Two-generation educational programming takes a whole-family approach to improving the educational opportunities and overall well-being of young children. It combines quality early childhood learning for preschool-age children with opportunities and support to help further education and training for their parents.

Dr. Margaret Tresch Owen, CCF director and Robinson Family Professor in the School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences, said the annual forum brings together community stakeholders to discuss important, timely topics, such as two-generation programming.

“Programs that focus on both children and their parents have the potential to bring important changes and improvements to the lives and success of low-income children and their families,” Owen said. “The theory underlying two-gen strategies is one that is resonating strongly in the community and stimulating new alliances and collaboration.”

Owen said two-generation programming is not a new idea, using Head Start as an example. But she said the forum provided examples of promising new efforts of focusing on whole-family strategies that align high-quality and intensive human capital investments for young children and their parents.

“Such programs are motivated by the disappearance of low-skilled jobs combined with the recognition that education beyond high school is essential for success in today’s economy. Approximately 67 percent of low-income children under the age of 3 have parents with only a high school diploma or less. Two-generation programming is coupling quality early childhood education centers with career counseling, job training, skills certification and higher education supports for parents, in an effort to pull families out of poverty.” 

Dr. Margaret Owen

Dr. Margaret Tresch Owen

Owen, who specializes in research regarding early childhood and school readiness, said the forum provided emerging and compelling evidence for how two-generation programming can have multiplying positive effects for children and their parents.

The CCF forum included nearly 200 people representing more than 75 social-service agencies, philanthropic foundations and interested businesses. Participants discussed the merits of the two-generation program, including practical items such as cost, child care, coaching and transportation.

Dr. P. Lindsay Chase-Lansdale, a professor of human development and social policy at Northwestern University, told the group that parents will do for their children what they won’t do for themselves.

“It doesn’t make sense for the child to be the only change agent in the family. Sometimes we can get pulled too far and focus just on early childhood education,” Chase-Lansdale said.

“Parents can see their children thriving (in early childhood education) and think, ‘I’d really like to be able to advise my child on early math, as well. What can I do?’” she said. “Or they see how exciting it is to learn new things and start thinking about their own education. And when they do get more education, it helps the child enormously.”

Owen said many low-income parents often don’t connect how important their own education is with that of their child.

“They’re very focused on their child’s education, and they’re very eager to do anything they can to promote it. But parents often think that their own chance at education is over,” Owen said. “Not only is that not the case, parents should know that furthering their own education helps their child and the entire family.”

Media Contact: The Office of Media Relations, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155, [email protected].

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