Ascend Publications

Ascend is pleased to offer these resources to the growing two-generation field. We kindly request that you attribute Ascend’s work by citing the publication referenced. Please email ascend.info@aspeninstitute.org with any questions. Thank you!

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In the original Two Open Windows, Pilyoung Kim and Sarah Watamura (2015) highlighted research supporting the transition to parenting as a co-occurring sensitive period — in other words, as a time in life characterized by “two open windows” where both infants and parents are especially receptive to being shaped by their environments. Here, we provide an update of research for parents, policymakers, researchers, and practitioners to inform approaches to supporting families with diverse needs, compositions, and backgrounds within a two-generation framework.

Reducing state-owed debt can increase employment and child support payments, reduce time spent on futile collection efforts, and increase federal performance incentive payments. Almost all states have policies that allow noncustodial fathers to seek a reduction of state-owed debt, either on a case-by-case basis or as part of a debt reduction program. Debt reduction programs work hand-in-hand with prevention and early intervention strategies, including setting realistic support orders, intervening early in cases where fathers are falling behind on payments, and providing needed services through community partnerships.

Putting child support dollars in families’ hands results in more income for families and helps them cover essentials like children’s food, clothes, and school supplies. States can direct that money to families at home, rather than to the federal government. Family pass-through and distribution policies incentivize noncustodial fathers to pay through the formal child support program and can increase federal incentive payments by improving child support program performance.

The central goal of child support policy must be child well-being. Child support policies designed to maximize child well-being can increase financial and other resources available to children, help remove barriers to consistent child support payment, increase employment retention among noncustodial fathers with support orders, support noncustodial parental engagement, and facilitate healthy co-parenting. Unprecedented levels of job loss, economic instability, and family isolation during the pandemic have raised the child support policy stakes for fathers, families, and communities.

Student parents are on every postsecondary campus across the country — in-person and online — but are rendered invisible by current data practices. Institutions must first identify the population of need, determine the appropriate next steps, and use this report as a guide for potential interventions.

Many of the constraints that impact the success of students who are parents and the institutions that serve them are the result of state and federal policies and priorities. However, policies at the state and local level can also be opportunities to leverage additional support for parents. Specific policy guidance, modifications, or implementation at the federal and state level can greatly impact the experience and success of students who are parents.