2018 Solutions Series

March 5, 2018 |

In 2018, Ascend is laser-focused on providing concrete, actionable solutions for practitioners and policymakers that want to incorporate a whole family approach to their work. The Solutions Series is a collection of briefs, webinars, and convenings that elevate the top opportunities and actionable solutions to move children and their parents toward educational success and economic security as recommended by Ascend and other experts in the field.

The cornerstone publication of the series, States Leading the Way: Practical Solutions that Lift Up Children and Families, was released in June 2018; Ascend is publishing briefs and hosting convenings throughout the year on the top policies and solutions recommending the opportunities below that can break the intergenerational cycle of poverty for families:

  • Partnering with families to build social capital;
  • Supporting fathers and non-custodial parents in parenting and economic supports;
  • Sustaining the 2Gen culture;
  • Legislative support for 2Gen, family outcomes;
  • Promoting organizational culture change to support 2Gen systems change;
  • Incorporating brain science, resiliency, and trauma informed care into family supports;
  • Braiding together systems and funding to support the whole family; and
  • Reducing disincentives to work via the “cliff or benefits effect.”

Briefs and Blogs

Additional briefs and blogs coming soon.

  • New Federal Opportunities to Advance Two-Generation Approaches to Improving the Lives of Children and Parents: Because of recent legislation passed in February and March of this year, the federal government will be providing significant new funding to state and local governments in 2018 and future years through an array of programs serving low-income children and parents. These new funding streams, combined with an increased focus on improving outcomes using evidence-based approaches, create a remarkable opportunity for path-breaking states and local leaders to transform how government tackles intergenerational poverty. Register for the webinar on July 12.

  • Transition Strategies: Sustaining 2Gen Success: Transitions at the state level are felt even more acutely these days with staff turnover, retiring leadership, and 2018 gubernatorial elections on the horizon in 36 states. As state leaders think about what comes next, maintaining the positive change achieved for families through a two-generation (2Gen) approach is likely a top concern. Engaging in practices that proactively embed 2Gen approaches into government work will be critical to a smooth and effective transition. View the webinar.
  • Engaging Fathers in Child Support: From a Punitive to a Positive Approach: The Colorado Department of Human Services is dramatically transforming practice and the fundamental way we think about child support enforcement by using a 2Gen lens and working with Ascend staff to think about a different future for children. Through the Colorado Parent Employment Project (CO-PEP), the Department focuses on helping non-custodial parents overcome barriers to employment, so they can financially support their children – a quintessential 2Gen approach.
  • Reducing the Cliff Effect to Support Working Families (Blog): Family stability and self-sufficiency are inextricably linked to the development of children, including their brain development, school success, and health. For these reasons, there is increased focus on potential mechanisms for reducing the “cliff or benefits effect” to support stronger outcomes for children and families. A 2010 study by the Women’s Foundation of Colorado showed that 1 in 3 families did not accept income increases to remain eligible for child care tuition subsidy. Research in Colorado, Florida, and Maryland shows families must weigh pay increases and career mobility with basic services for their children. Each state is working to eliminate these disincentives to work and increase the wage earnings of parents. View the webinar here.
  • Reinventing the Way We Measure Family Outcomes (Blog): Following recommendations from Ascend at the Aspen Institute for measuring outcomes for children and parents, the Connecticut Office of Early Childhood designed a set of whole-family, or two-generational (also known as 2Gen) outcomes measures representing key family goals that also generate value for Connecticut. Referred to as a rate card, this effort allows government to define a menu of outcomes it wishes to “purchase” and the amount it is willing to pay each time a given outcome is achieved. In Connecticut, the outcomes rate card encourages providers to take a family-centric approach that tailors services to the needs of individual parents and their children.
  • Tackling Intergenerational Poverty in Utah (Blog): State leaders in Utah are determined to find solutions to intergenerational poverty and strengthen the lives of children and their parents. As Governor Gary R. Herbert shared with colleagues at the National Governors Association, “Intergenerational poverty is generation after generation where the grandparents, parents, and now the children, are trapped in poverty. We’re trying to break that cycle.” With this focus, the Governor tasked his administration to find solutions and prioritize the work of Utah’s multi-agency Intergenerational Welfare Reform Commission and data initiative in 2012. Ascend at the Aspen Institute became one of the partners in these efforts through connections with other innovative states, local community efforts, technical assistance, and leadership support.
  • Providing Care and Custody With Dignity and Respect Within Colorado Division of Youth Services: Parenting is an everyday activity, and time missed cannot be recaptured. How then, can the Department hope to rehabilitate young parents too? How can the Colorado Division of Youth Services (DYS) set these teens on a path of appreciation for their children, and imbue within them an understanding of their responsibilities as a parent? While DYS provides support and housing for the youth in its care, no organization can replace a parent. The Colorado Department of Human Services, which oversees DYS, is working to maintain parent-child connections and relationships among committed youth and their parents, as well as between parenting youth and their own children. CDHS has acted upon a series of recommendations that include parenting curricula, home visiting and other benefits connections, and facilities upgrades to help address the destabilizing toll of incarceration on youth and their children.
  • Unpacking the Father Factor, a Critical Link in Building Strong Communities (Blog): Visionary leaders understand that many of our public systems and services were not designed for 21st century families. So, program and public leaders across the country are redefining how they work with families. On Thursday, November 29, Ascend at the Aspen Institute and GOOD+ Foundation convened fathers, researchers, thought leaders, policymakers, and social service program leaders to explore the father factor – a critical link in building strong families and communities. Speakers shared research and ideas, highlighted promising practice, and explored policy opportunities to increase engagement of both fathers with their children and social service organizations with fathers.


  • On April 5, Ascend hosted a leadership conversation at the Aspen Institute – Valuing Children, Valuing Work: A Conversation with Colorado’s Governor John Hickenlooper – to discuss how states leaders can shift organizational cultures and recruit business to better support families. View the livestream video here.
  • In June, Ascend hosted or co-hosted public convenings to release two reports:
  • On November 29, Ascend hosted a public event at the Aspen Institute with the GOOD+ Foundation – The Father Factor: A Critical Link in Building Strong Families and Communities – to discuss how to engage fathers and non-custodial parents in parenting and economic supports. View the livestream video here.

Contact: If you have any questions about the Solutions Series, please contact Lindsay Broyhill, communications strategist and manager, at Lindsay.broyhill@aspeninstitute.org.

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