Economic Security for Extremely Vulnerable Families: Themes and Options for Workforce Development and Asset Strategies

This is a report by the Urban Institute.

The overarching goal of this paper is to identify promising approaches that the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Center for Community and Economic Opportunity (CCEO) could take to help low-income families whose children have a heightened likelihood of poor outcomes because their parents face multiple risks. The paper draws from its authors’ own research, their review of relevant literature, and learning sessions conducted by CCEO in Washington, DC, Chicago, and Portland, Maine, to gather input from service providers, policy and program experts, and researchers.2 In addition to the findings’ direct relevance to CCEO, they should also interest policymakers, philanthropic funders, and service providers interested in future directions for workforce and asset policy, economic stability for vulnerable children and families, and two-generational service delivery.

The paper concentrates on the workforce development and assets portions of CCEO’s expertise and portfolio. This focus arises from CCEO’s judgment that programs in these two fields are particularly hard to retool in order to address the needs of the most vulnerable families-rather than those of other low-income families whose barriers are mostly financial and who experience fewer crises and less overwhelming barriers to success. It also fills a gap that emerged from the learning sessions: few researchers or service providers experienced in working with very vulnerable families felt confident offering suggestions to improve their economic security, even though financial vulnerability worsened these families’ other challenges. And finally, it emerges from the shared perspective of CCEO and the paper’s authors that workforce development and asset programs have an important role to play in helping troubled families and that addressing both areas together could create synergy and enhance families’ success over time.

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