Measuring Transformative Impact for Whole Families

Marjorie Sims | October 2, 2023 | Ascend Network

We know that for children to thrive, their whole family needs to be well. Two-generation approaches (2Gen) recognize children and the adults in their lives’ well-being and success are intertwined, so 2Gen organizations simultaneously track outcomes for both children and the adults in their lives together. There is a strong and growing knowledge base supporting this intergenerational connectivity, but there is still progress to be made in enabling the field to utilize research that supports 2Gen approaches and improve their capacity to effectively implement evaluation and learning strategies. 

One of the largest federal research investments in the 2Gen approach is the Next Steps for Rigorous Research on Two-Generation Approaches project from the Office of Planning, Research, & Evaluation (OPRE) within the Administration for Children and Families (ACF). OPRE has created a learning community of ten organizations – all of which are Ascend Network Partners – and is working with Mathematica on a study to 1) conduct formative evaluation of their 2Gen programs, 2) strengthen each organization’s capacity to effectively evaluate program efficacy, and 3) pilot a measure of important constructs for future 2Gen initiatives. This initiative started off in 2019 and is set to share out their project learnings in the next month. We sat down with three of these initiatives’ leaders to learn what results they’ve seen and to gather their insights and recommendations for other organizations as they progress on their 2Gen measurement and evaluation journeys.

Brighton Center

Newport, Kentucky

90% of children enrolled for 12 months assess age appropriate in cognitive and language skills.
85% of parents residing at Northern Kentucky Scholar House are making Satisfactory Academic Progress toward their postsecondary degree.

“One way we were able to move the needle for families and deepen the impact of our programs was by centering family voices and perspectives directly in our logic model. This went a step further for us than just having parents participate in a focus group. We looked at how we could really center family voice and have it show up in our strategies. By working with families to develop our logic model and improve upon it with multiple feedback loops, we learned we were giving parents leadership opportunities and shifting power dynamics. That changed our understanding of partnerships, how our strategies showed up, and it helped us improve how we look at our logic model to be more family-centric rather than just funder-centric.”

Melissa Hall Sommer – Senior Vice President, Brighton Center

Center for Transforming Lives

Fort Worth, Texas

94% of children in their Child and Family Services performed above average on the AIM assessment, meeting or exceeding expectations.
73% of parents served in their Child and Family Services reported improvement in 2 or more domains of the Transforming Lives Scale, which measures an increase in protective factors associated with financial and emotional well-being.

“On a quarterly and annual basis, we look at variables in our evaluation plan and how participants are progressing. Through this process, we’ve promoted a growth mindset – celebrating when things are going right AND when we realize things aren’t because being able to identify and solve shortcomings is our pathway to innovation. We all want positive results for participants, and we want to see lives changed and improved, so we try to take out the negativity and worry of evaluation.”

Carol Klocek – Chief Executive Officer, Center for Transforming Lives

Valley Settlement

Glenwood Springs, Colorado

Children in the Busesito Preschool Program experience significant growth from pre- to post-program. At the end of the last program year, children overwhelmingly met or exceeded expectations in the areas of social-emotional development (97%), language development (96%), and cognitive development (99%).  
Parents in that same program reported a statistically significant increase in their involvement in their child’s education and built social connections through the program. 62% of parents said they made friends with other Busesito Preschool parents during the course of the program year. 47% of parents thought the program had an impact on other family members in the household, including younger siblings and grandparents. 

“Program staff are heavily involved in evaluation from the beginning to end of our annual cycle. They provide insights on data during an annual ‘evaluation retreat,’ recommend program adjustments for the coming year, and make decisions within their program teams on which strategies and outcomes to measure in the future. Now, thanks to the team at Mathematica and their work in the Next Steps for Rigorous Research on Two-Generation Approaches project, we are equipped with easy and actionable strategies to engage in rapid-cycle learning throughout our annual evaluation cycle. This will be especially helpful as we build and test new programming components in partnership with families.”

Kenia Pinela – Director of Programs and Innovation, Valley Settlement

For more background and resources on 2Gen evaluation, download ACF’s 2Gen Logic Model Brief and check out our Making Tomorrow Better Together report series

Ascend’s Building Evidence Learning and Action Community is currently working to develop a 2Gen research agenda. Stay tuned as we share updates from this group, and listen to insights shared from several of these partners during the Redefining the Research Opportunity session at the 2023 Aspen Forum on Children and Families.

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