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Measuring the Impacts of Multi-Generational Family Supports

Demographic shifts in America have changed family structures and have altered the flow of dependency between generations. Many Americans in middle age find themselves supporting both children and aging parents. Many older Americans are now the primary guardians for their grandchildren. Rather than a linear model of older generations caring for younger ones, modern families often resemble more of a net: where supports move between all generations inter-dependently. An increasing amount of data lends credence to the anecdotal evidence we can all see throughout our communities.
The Alliance for Children and Families, in partnership with Generations United and coinciding with the United Nations International Day of the Family, recently released a report, “Intergenerational Family Connections: The Relationships that Support a Strong America,” to try and assess what some of these connections look like. The report is part of "Committing to Our Families," a signature series on the state of families from the journal Families in Society at the Alliance for Children and Families.
The Alliance and Generations United surveyed more than 2,000 adults about their intergenerational family bonds across age, income levels, and distance. Findings show that family members are highly dependent on each other and give their time and financial resources in many crucial ways including basic needs, health care, education, and child care. Having a dependable support system helps families to foster resilience and the ability to better manage various traumas and life challenges.
The survey results suggest some interesting findings—including the tendency for family connectedness to increase with income, and variations in family connectedness across different racial and ethnic groups—that warrant further study. This Alliance and GU survey, and similar research, serve as a starting point for a discussion about how we adjust public policies to meet the needs of modern families. As the United Nations states, “The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the state.” As demographics change, society must adapt to meet the new needs of modern families.


Committing to Community: The Transformative Impact of Community Collaboration in Education, Health, and Child Welfare

The latest issue of Families in Society: The Journal of Contemporary Social Services, published by the Alliance for Children and Families, features a discussion of “the essentialness of community voice in realizing the potential and well-being of individuals and families.” The nation’s oldest social work journal, Families in Society focuses on a broad array of issues that relate to the capabilities of families and communities, including consideration of various biopsychosocial, economic and cultural factors that impact those capacities. This discussion is depicted in an editorial that focuses on community collaboration examples from education and health care, and an article on the critical nature of authentic engagement in child welfare practice.
In “Unpacking Transformation: Committing to Community in Education and Health Care Reform,” emphasis is placed on the “growing trend” by federal agencies and foundations to call for some form of partnership with a community agency as a prerequisite for funding. The editorial also links the concept of community involvement to a central idiom of the Code of Ethics of the National Association of Social Workers. Quoting a paper on community engagement by the Prevention Institute, the editorial states “all professionals working in communities have an obligation to strengthen collaborative efforts, as they are essential to community empowerment and self-determination—key ingredients for healthy, sustainable, and equitable communities.”
However, the editorial goes on to state that the process can be “complicated” and “not always successful.” Examples of these challenges are given with the push for more meaningful parent engagement in education, and the “significant” increase in funding for community-based public health projects under the Affordable Care Act. Looking at cases from these different sectors, the editorial lays out “implications for practice and policy” among social workers. The editors end by saying, “Now is the time for social work… to take the lead in facilitating impactful public participation. It is in our Code of Ethics and part of our value system to encourage and support our neighbors and communities to be healthy, strong, and autonomous.”
Continuing the focus on community voice, the article “An Unsuccessful Partnership: Behavioral Compliance and Strengths-Based Child Welfare Practice” further unpacks some of the ways in which the value of collaboration and community involvement can be difficult to put into practice, particularly in relation to fulfilling child protection mandates concurrently with providing supports for family self-determination and improved functioning. Although child welfare policy “prioritizes family engagement,” behavioral compliance is often used as the primary indicator of parents’ desire to improve the conditions of child safety and wellbeing in their families. In fact, as the article argues, focusing on the typical understanding of compliance is antithetical to a strengths-based model and can lead to resistance, reactive behavior, uneven power dynamics, and, ultimately, negative outcomes for children and families.
Recommendations in the article emphasize clinical implications for social workers and child welfare professionals, but the crux of the topic is the difficulty of putting values into practice. Although the child welfare system is increasingly prioritizing family engagement outcomes in mandated and voluntary services, a combination of strained resources and imperfect indicators often causes people to focus on the wrong things. In the end, it is not mere lip service to the values of collaboration and community engagement that matters. Authentic engagement, and real impact, can only come when these values are reflected in policy, practice and action.


Branding Causes, Not Organizations

Note: This post was written in partnership with Jeremy Smith, Director of New Business Development at Incite.  For over a decade, Incite has been creating results-oriented cause and social impact marketing campaigns. Incite specializes in developing and implementing strategic marketing campaigns that use the power of entertainment to reach and engage mainstream and targeted audiences around the country.
What makes the difference between a successful non-profit organization and an unsuccessful one? It often depends on who you ask.  What about the difference between those that thrive and those forced to close up shop? Staff, resources, funding, strategy, and other essentials often come to mind, but one very important factor is often overlooked: branding. Not just the branding of an organization and its programming; but the branding of the cause it serves through proactive marketing efforts.
As success for the non-profit human services sector shifts from being defined by finances and overhead to being defined by outcomes and results, it is imperative for human service agencies to organize their activities in a clear, concise, and mobilizing way. Branding a cause, rather than an organization, creates a movement for change galvanized by a vision and a goal for the community.
Learning how to brand your cause can be difficult. Where do you start? What are your goals? Who are you trying to reach? Who are your potential partners? How much should be invested in accomplishing your mission, and how much should be spent proactively marketing your cause and engaging stakeholders? To begin to answer some of these questions, the Alliance for Children & Families will host a webinar in partnership with cause marketing firm Incite on Wednesday, November 13 at 3 p.m. ET: “Meaningful and Uncommon Cause Marketing.” This introduction to cause marketing will cover topics such as fostering mutually beneficial relationships with for-profit companies, types of cause marketing campaigns, identifying your audience, setting goals, and more. The webinar is FREE for Alliance and UNCA member organizations! Register now.  
We are pleased to announce that this will be the first in a series of webinars and case studies as part of the Alliance’s Disruptive Forces in Action project, funded with the generous support of the Consuelo Foundation. Continue to look for resources and information in the coming months related to bringing to life each of the six disruptive forces identified in the Alliance report Disruptive Forces: Driving a Human Services Revolution!


New Look for Building Neighborhoods Blog

Welcome to the newly revamped Building Neighborhoods blog! We hope you like our new look. All of the information from the old blog is still here, but we hope you find it more straightforward and just as easy to navigate. You can find out more about us in the tabs on the top of the page, and discover posts by topic or find more information on neighborhood revitalization via the links on the right-hand side of the page. Please explore our new blog layout and let us know what you think.


Introducing Katherine Astrich

Since Patrick Lester departed from UNCA early this year, I’ve had the opportunity to maintain the blog and assist with the planning of the Neighborhood Revitalization Conference. It has been a pleasure reconnecting with the Building Neighborhoods community from my role at the National Human Services Assembly, and I was fortunate to engage with many of you at the conference back in August.

At this time I’m pleased to pass the reins along to UNCA’s current Vice President for Public Policy, Katherine Astrich. Katherine joins UNCA (and its sister agency, the Alliance for Children and Families) from The Lewin Group, where she served as a senior consultant on health care and human services. She also spent years at the Office of Management and Budget, where she lead a department focused on regulatory and economic analysis of Head Start, nutrition programs, Medicaid, SCHIP and immigration. She has worked closely with the White House, Administration for Children and Families, USDA and Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services. She is a strong ally to neighborhood policy and a committed champion of our issues.

She and Ian Bautista will be co-leading the blog from here forward, and look forward to continuing the learning and dialogue.  Any future information, tips, and inquiries concerning the blog can be directed to Katherine, who is based at UNCA’s public policy office in Washington D.C. She can be reached at kastrich [@] unca.org.



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by Dr. Radut