Pilot project addresses financial hardship for families

Raising young children is hard enough without all the extra stresses that come with financial hardship.

Children’s Home Society of Washington has adapted Mobility Mentoring, an award-winning program created by Economic Mobility Pathways (EMPath), to our early childhood programs to help families develop the tools to move toward financial security while supporting their children's healthy development.

Along with 13 other organizations, we recently participated in a one-year pilot with the Washington State Department of Early Learning to bring Mobility Mentoring to Washington state’s preschool program called Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP). The program prepares 3- and 4-year-olds from low-income households for success in school and later in life. Families at our Highline Early Learning Center in Des Moines, Wash., participated in the pilot.

Bringing Mobility Mentoring to our early learning programs reflects our efforts to offer intergenerational strategies that help the whole child as well as their parents and caregivers.

Science tells us that living in poverty actually affects how our brains function, influencing us to focus on immediate needs and making it harder to plan ahead. Equipped with tools and training based on a deep understanding of these effects, Mobility Mentoring coaches help families map out pathways toward greater financial security, create longer-term goals with small achievable steps and celebrate successes together.

The Washington State Department of Early Learning released the results from the first year of the two-year study and found that families participating in Mobility Mentoring made substantial improvements over the school year. The early results showed significant differences in parents’ involvement in their child’s school, knowledge of community resources, setting long-term goals, and budgeting for the future.

We are very encouraged by the results from the first year of this study and look forward to learning more from the findings at the end of the pilot in June 2017. We think this program enhancement has tremendous potential to benefit kids and families across the state.

Jason Gortney is the director of the Office of Policy & Innovation.