I’m coming to you a bit earlier this week because I’m excited to share some real ground- breaking work going on at Children’s Home & Aid.  I want to do this by returning to our values – our SCOPE.

First, a bit of a recap. In the fall, I introduced the first two values of our SCOPEStrong Families, Community; Opportunity; Partnership and Equity—anchoring our strategic plan. I shared the story of Sixto Cancel—who utilized both his experience in foster care and his connections to family to change child welfare practice—highlighting the power of strong families.  Next, we examined community, and the life changing impact of connection and empowerment displayed by our Thriving Fathers and Families and Parents Care & Share programs. These programs are intentionally creating spaces where fathers can affirm their value and strengths.

Today, I’m lifting up opportunity. Our Blueprint for Impact states clearly our belief that social capital, economic mobility and other outcomes vital for children and youth to thrive should not be predicated by race or zip code. Yet every day we see how families are constrained and compromised by decades of ill-conceived social policy, systemic racism, and active disinvestment. This are not mere barriers to opportunity. These chasms that alter life trajectories for the worse.

We know that intergenerational disadvantage impacts families and children—becoming a cruel hand-me-down that leads people to question their intrinsic value, and whether or not the building blocks we all need to thrive—safe, healthy communities, high-quality schools, well-paying jobs—are even remotely attainable. This cycle is complex and multilayered. Disrupting it requires that we lead and advocate for robust policies and social supports, that our practice evolves to be more intentional partners with families, and that we ground all of this with an intentionality that is antiracist, equitable and focused on creating greater economic mobility.

Children’s Home & Aid is part of a recently-launched, collaborative project—the 2Gen Program—that puts us squarely on this pathway for our families. Our work will add to the research of what it takes to successfully accelerate opportunity for families living in deep, chronic, and multi-generational poverty, and it seeks to unlock greater economic opportunity for hundreds of families in Chicago and Cook County.

Because we cannot advance this work alone, and we value partnerships which magnify our impact, Children’s Home & Aid is collaborating with the Chicago Housing Authority, the Housing Authority of Cook County, BPI and researchers to support families receiving federal Housing Choice Vouchers that include coaching, employment and other services. Children’s Home & Aid is doing the coaching, and we are working with families their identified goals as they seek opportunities that put them on a pathway to thrive.

The 2Gen Program is just one example of how we are embracing a family-centered coaching approach in our service delivery transformation. We are doing this in other powerful ways at Children’s Home & Aid so that families are supported with concrete supports linked to greater opportunity. The EMPath Mobility Mentoring pilot in our early childhood and home visiting programs introduced at the December Town Hall is another powerful example of how we are doing differently. These are multi-year collaborations aimed at building research and reinventing our practice while directly assisting families. While in know this work is still under development, I’m excited by the potential both programs have to be a disruptive force in breaking the multi-generational cycle of racial, social and economic inequality which rob too many children and families of their potential to thrive.

For those of you blazing this trail at Children’s Home & Aid: thank you for the opportunity to learn from your innovation! We’re proud of the work you are doing, and we’re eager to hear more about your impact in the coming months.