New 2Gen Program Makes Colorado a National Leader

2Gen chart

What if more communities could help Colorado families holistically, instead of relying on siloed systems that support only one sliver of their needs at a time? With Governor Hickenlooper’s newly launched two-generation (2Gen) program, or 2GO, the state is encouraging local innovation to do just that.

Reggie Bicha, director of the Colorado Department of Human Services (CDHS), describes the $1 million program as a pilot approach that “will encourage the incubation of ideas,” as communities help families “leave poverty in this generation and stay in the middle class in the next generation.”

Related: Two-Generation Strategies Stand Out In Governor’s State of the State

2Gen strategies move an entire family into economic stability. They can be applied to policies, programs, systems, and research. These strategies use an intentional commitment to serving children and adults simultaneously, thus helping the entire family advance economically.

A 2Gen framework can integrate several systems, including early childhood education, workforce training and employment, health, or asset building. The Bell’s work focuses on one aspect of the two-generation model — one that purposefully links adult education, job training, workforce development, and postsecondary education for low-income parents with early childhood education for their young children.

Related: Bound to Succeed: Two Generation Approaches to Education in Colorado

2Gen approaches make sense because they focus on what families need, not on how our (often inefficient) systems are designed. They can also be complicated, both because family needs are often complex and our systems, programs, and funding streams often seem intractable. That’s why 2Gen work needs strong partnerships and leadership.

Colorado has both. The state began formally integrating a 2Gen framework into its systems years ago thanks to leadership from the Governor and the Colorado Department Human Services. From the Supporting Working Families Initiative (SWFI), which supports community college student parents who need child care, to the “Parents on a Mission” program, which has helped at least 1276 individuals in the criminal justice system learn parenting and behavioral skills, Colorado has embraced initiatives at the state level.

Related: Two-Gen Bills: What Did & Did Not Pass in 2018 Legislative Session

This makes us a national leader in the field. The Two-Generation Strategies Toolkit, released in July 2018 by the National Conference of State Legislatures, highlights our state’s progress on 2Gen, provides examples of other successful state initiatives, and makes plain the important role policymakers must play “in legislating, convening, partnering, championing and coor­dinating funding.”

With 2GO, Colorado is once again walking the walk on 2Gen. We’re glad to see this continued leadership.