Multi-Generational Programs

Multi-Generational programs (also called the 2Gen approach) address the needs of both children and parents, with the ultimate goal of creating self-sustaining opportunities and better outcomes for the whole family unit. Multi-Generational programs have been applauded and proven to be a holistic way to end the cycle of poverty, which is why EDSI is so committed to offering this program to as many families in as many regions as possible.

Is your region looking for a successful and innovative program designed to break the cycle of intergenerational poverty?

Multi-Gen programs excel at addressing the needs of both parents and children, with the goal of creating opportunities that lead to family-sustaining wages and a strengthened family unit.

This research-driven model has proven successful with some of the most difficult-to-serve populations. According to the Urban Institute, “Investments in multi-generational models could significantly reduce or even eliminate the investment required to support third and subsequent generations.”

How does it work? What do participants walk away with when the program is done?

Multi-Gen programming brings parents and their children together for job readiness, academic instruction and family mealtime.

EDSI’s multi-gen program promotes a strong family unit, while encouraging intellectual and emotional skill development for all ages.

Adults: Improve job readiness skills and employability through an employer-driven curriculum geared toward high-priority occupations. Successful completion of the program often leads to recognized credentials and certifications, and job placement often follows.

Children: Strengthen education and behavior through age-appropriate, activity-based learning and support.

Families: Develop and practice positive communication, parenting and life skills.

Multi-generational (multi-gen) workforce development programs break the cycle of poverty by addressing the needs of parents and their children simultaneously. These programs reinforce positive family behaviors, provide job-readiness training and industry-specific skills training to help parents gain career pathway employment, and provide small-group tutoring and help with homework to help students stay in school. Parent participants are typically TANF- or WIOA-eligible and underemployed or unemployed. We believe that addressing the family holistically, through counseling, group activities, and tutoring for children, will increase long-term employment success more than simply addressing the parents’ immediate need for employment as a stand-alone issue. A multi-gen program is a “both/and” solution that strengthens the parent’s employment prospects, helps children become better students, and provides positive socialization experiences centered around family mealtime. Parents and their children learn new ways of interacting with each other and receive support from professionals to reinforce these new, adaptive skills.

According to the Annie E. Casey Foundation, which developed its two-generation approach to Family Economic Success (FES) in 2013, a multi-gen program is guided by the following three-pillar approach[1]:

Three-Pillar Approach

EDSI’s multi-gen program addresses all three pillars in our program design. Our multi-gen cohorts are typically comprised of 6 to 12 parents and their children and runs from 8 to 13 weeks. Parents receive instructor-led, industry-specific job training twice a week, while children receive tutoring, homework help, and age-appropriate activities from a state-licensed educator. Together, each family works with a licensed clinical social worker (LCSW) to identify and resolve barriers to employment and develop healthy patterns of behavior that will boost youths’ educational success. Each evening session begins with a catered family meal that provides quality family time in a positive, low-stress environment in which constructive behaviors are modeled by staff for participants.

Programs can include various incentives. We have offered Chromebooks for those who complete training, which helps bridge the digital divide and can be used by both parents and children following the program, and cash incentives for completing milestones. Additionally, a graduation celebration marks the completion of the program, with children helping celebrate their parents’ achievements. This end-of-program recognition is an emotional highlight for all participants and staff involved. This online slide show of our multi-gen program shows how hard work and enriching activities fulfill the program’s promise.


[1] Annie E. Casey Foundation, “An Evaluation of Family Economic Success—Early Childhood Education: Findings from a Two-Generation Approach.” June 30, 2018. https://www.jbassoc.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/Evaluation-of-Family-Economic-Success-Early-Childhood-Education.pdf

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Program Spotlight: Chester, PA

Multi-Gen has proven instrumental in helping people enter or re-enter the Pennsylvania workforce. In the first two years of programming, 42 people secured full-time employment, and participant employment placement rate was 85%.

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The Need for Multi-Gen Programs

Multi-gen programs target low-income families in hopes of disrupting the cycle of poverty. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the U.S. poverty rate in 2020 was 11.4%, totaling 37.2 million people.[1] However, poverty disproportionately affects single mothers and their children: 30.4% of children living with a single parent live below the poverty level.[2] Food insecurity is a reality for 35.5% of these households. Low-income families are more likely to have one or more parents with low levels of educational attainment and skills. Children who live in low-income households are more likely to be truant from school, have low test scores and fail to obtain a high school diploma.

Research has documented the negative impact of parent’s low education, economic instability, and poor health on a child’s learning and developmental trajectory. Conversely, children’s educational advancement and healthy development are powerful catalysts for parents to improve their own overall well-being, according to research by the U.S. Department of Education (www2.ed.gov). The Aspen Institute stresses that an effective multi-gen program provides education, economic supports, and social capital. Additionally, researchers stress the following reasons to focus on single mothers and their children:

  • Research indicates a connection between maternal education and child outcomes
  • Increasingly, women are the primary breadwinners for the family
  • Single-mother families have disproportionate rates of poverty
  • Research shows the efficacy of investing in women[3]

[1] https://www.census.gov/library/publications/2021/demo/p60-273.html

[2] OJJDP Statistical Briefing Book. Online. Available: https://www.ojjdp.gov/ojstatbb.... Released on April 16, 2021.

[3] Mosle, A., & Patel, N. (2012). Two Generations, One Future: Moving Parents and Children beyond Poverty Together. The Aspen Institute. Retrieved from ascend.aspeninstitute.org/resources/two-generations-on-future.

Program Benefits

According to the Aspen Institute and the Foundation for Child Development, the benefits of multi-gen programs are numerous.[1] For example, young children become ready for school and are prepared to take charge of their learning; parents become more powerful learning partners and are motivated to pursue post-secondary learning; educational success becomes a core family value; parents are motivated to climb the career ladder; children have a model for economic success; parents improve their emotional capacity and parenting skills; and the family is connected with economic, social and other supports.

While the concrete goal of the multi-gen program, for EDSI as a workforce development company, is parental employment, we have witnessed innumerable positive outcomes across our initiatives. For parents, we see a reduction in stress, stronger educational and employment skills, and more confidence in their role as their child’s first teacher. The family dinner is an essential element of this for its role in building social and communication skills in children, encouraging family dialogues, and introducing children to new food experiences. Positive outcomes for children we have witnessed include improved readiness for school, greater social, emotional, and educational development and more positive interactions with their parents.

Research shows that multi-gen programs can generate growth and opportunity not only for parents and children, but also for entire communities. According to the Urban Institute, “investments in Multi-Generational models could significantly reduce or even eliminate the investment required to support third and subsequent generations.” The Urban Institute reports that the Family-Centered Community Change program that ran in Buffalo, NY, Columbus, OH, and San Antonio, TX, from 2012-2019 ’s HOST initiative utilized a two-generation strategy to support and empower families living in public and subsidized housing with a goal of promoting housing stability.[2]

[1] Ascend: The Aspen Institute. “Outcomes, Indicators, Tools.” https://outcomes.ascend.aspeninstitute.org/issues/

[2] Morgan, Ann, Elizabeth Champion, and Eona Harrison. “How Two-Generation Programs Can Advance housing Stability.” Urban Institute, January 7, 2022. Urban.org.

In a recent cohort, EDSI experienced a greater than 95% attendance rate for adult and school-aged participants.

Lights, Camera, Action

Luzerne County Multi-Gen Program
Delaware County Multi-Gen Program (Extended)
Delaware County Multi-Gen Program

Feedback from Clients and Stakeholders

The EDSI Multi-Gen program is unlike any other training program we have offered in our TANF program. It provides outcomes in performance metrics and increases rapport, engagement, and family relationships. Participants learn valuable, in-demand skills that help with job placement. The real value, however, is the impact that this program has on the whole family. Participants thrive under the staff support and peer networking. It has truly been life changing for their families!

Megan Bair - Operations Manager at Central Susquehanna Opportunities, Inc.

The teacher of the program is amazing. I’ve been doing customer service all my life and still learned a lot. My daughter looked forward to the tutoring sessions and was interested in learning. Another participant and I are still friends and our daughters have also remained friends. I obtained a job in customer service one week after graduating from the program, making over $18 per hour. The employer was impressed with the training so it helped me get hired over several other applicants.

Program Participant

I have been part of the Multi-Gen program as a teacher since January 2019. It has been an honor to work alongside the EDSI staff, other teachers, social workers, and supervisors throughout this journey. The collaboration and teamwork is so inspiring! Even during the pandemic, unexpected weather, and other obstacles, the team always worked together and found a way to do what was best for the families and children.

Chrissy Murin - EDSI

The families and children have been so incredible to work with. They have trusted us with their children which allowed them to dedicate time to themselves to invest back into their family. Remote learning presented a new layer of allowing us into their home. The students were champs on zoom! Although each cohort is only eight weeks, it always feels like we have known them for so much longer at the end. I am so proud to be part of team EDSI!

Hillary Soring - EDSI

It gave me more experience and confidence in going back out and getting a great job to support my family.

Program Participant

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