Ascend at the Aspen Institute builds intergenerational family prosperity and well-being for children and the adults in their lives through a two-generation (2Gen) approach. This mean we intentionally and simultaneously focus on supporting children and the adults in their lives together. We center racial, gender, and economic equity in all our work along with the lived expertise of parents and families. There is a long road ahead to implement 2Gen approaches systematically at the local, state, and federal levels. Partnerships are the cornerstone of this work. Ascend engages with a multitude of organizations, public officials, and, of course, parents, to inform and advance policies and services to better support families.
In 2021, Ascend received funding from the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation to deepen understanding about the experiences of young adult parents between the ages of 18 and 24 in Los Angeles County, California (LA County) – the most populous county in the nation and with one of the most dynamic economies in the world. We specifically wanted to better understand how young families navigate public systems to meet their needs. We also wanted to understand the aspirations parents have for themselves and their children. Of the approximated 10 million residents who live in LA County, nearly 49,000 are young parents who care for about 67,000 children across 39,000 households. A disproportionate number of young parents and their children in LA County live below the poverty line – 30% and 35% respectively, compared to 14% of all LA County residents.
To better understand the experiences and needs of young families, the Ascend Parent Advisors (composed of 13 parents) offered insight and feedback on this work and shared their lived experiences as parents of young children with low incomes in LA County. Additionally, the 2Gen LA County Planning Committee – a cohort of Ascend Network leaders representing direct service organizations serving young families – helped Ascend connect to other organizations and hosted two focus groups with young Black mothers who have low incomes in LA County. We developed a field scan and landscape analysis to explore policies and practices that currently exist to serve young families and children in LA County, as well as identify gaps in resources. Finally, we held two county-wide convenings with more than 150 participants exploring opportunities and challenges, identifying policy and practice priorities, and identifying areas of collaboration and partnership all to serve young families in LA County.
Drawing upon the expertise of Parent Advisors and stakeholders from nonprofit, private, and public organizations in LA County, this Collaborative Framework and Plan of Action distills key learnings and findings to inform and strengthen support for young parents and their children in LA County. The goals of this report are to better understand families’ needs, highlight practices and policies that utilize a 2Gen approach, showcase opportunities to forge connections between organizations to streamline work, and offer recommendations across sectors and at all levels.
The findings and recommendations outlined in this report would not exist without the investment of many community members and partners, however, the work does not stop here. Our hope is that this document sparks imagination of what a 2Gen approach could look like in LA County, encourages collaboration between organizations and families, and fuels action to better serve young parents and their children across services.
Thank you for your continued support, time, and commitment to serving families.