Monday, January 22, 2018

New Year, New You: Opportunities for Change

Guest Blog by Allison Loft, 
Education and Engagement Manager, United Way of Pierce County

What is your New Year’s resolution?  Be more organized? Lose weight? Find a new job? Volunteer? Save money? Travel more?

I find myself this time of year, after putting away decorations, washing extra loads of guest laundry and recovering from a lack of sleep and too many holiday treats…looking ahead to a year of opportunity. Many of us are fortunate to have a roof over our heads, enough food and clothing and a healthy family. However, 1 in 3 working families in Pierce County struggles to make ends meet let alone make New Year’s resolutions. Struggling parents mean struggling children and children who grow up in poverty are more likely to be poor as adults, while those who grow up in families that are more affluent are more likely to be affluent later in life. While even a few years in poverty can have a significant impact on a child’s economic trajectory, the risks are particularly high for those who experience many years of poverty.

Armed with this knowledge, United Way of Pierce County is working to bring health & human service providers, schools, faith-based groups, government agencies, policymakers and the private sector together for the purpose of collaborating to collect, share and analyze data and information regarding inter-generational poverty. The goal is to use this information to implement a two-generation approach designed to stabilize high-need families and, ultimately, to reduce the incidence of children in our community who remain in the cycle of poverty into adulthood.

This approach will require a commitment to serving low-income families in Pierce County in the most efficient and effective way possible, even if it means thinking outside of the box. It means moving from transactional human service providers toward becoming an integrated system of services that focus on the whole person, the whole child and the whole family/household. It will also require a central 'backbone' organization to facilitate and support these collaborations, and that is where United Way of Pierce County comes in. Two-Generation programs, like the model shown below, have incredible promise for breaking the cycle of poverty, and it is time to put this knowledge into practice to see how two can indeed, be better than one.
Model from The Aspen Institute
We look forward to collaborating with the community to help inform us as we develop our Two-Gen approach. While this work has just begun locally, the opportunity for hope and progress for Pierce County families abounds. If you would like to get involved now, many volunteer opportunities are available to help children and families, please visit our volunteer website at or email

Here’s to a happy, healthy, prosperous and hopeful 2018!

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