Author: Madyson Russell

United Way Launches the 2-Generation Strategic Plan for Austin

All families deserve access to opportunity. However, systems that perpetuate inter-generational poverty threaten the well being of Austin’s residents and its economy, leaving far too many families behind. In Travis County, more than one-third of households with children younger than 18 years old are low income. Meanwhile, employers in our community struggle to find trained candidates to fill well-paying middle-skill jobs. Austin’s current workforce gap is projected to continue to grow and reach more than 60,000 openings for middle-skill jobs by 2021. For many parents who are eager to fill these positions, access to affordable, high-quality child care stands in the way. Although there are many promising anti-poverty programs in Austin, most focus solely on adults or their children, missing the opportunity to foster economic mobility for whole families. The 2-Gen approach to family economic opportunity brings services and resources for parents and children together, ultimately leading to better outcomes for both generations. Over the past several years, leaders across sectors in Austin/Travis County have worked together to better understand and promote a dual-generational (2-Gen) approach aimed at disrupting the cycle of inter-generational poverty. With the release of the Austin/Travis County 2-Gen Strategic Plan, Austin’s nonprofit and municipal leaders are laying the groundwork to intentionally coordinate services for parents and children over the next five years. Austin Mayor Steve Adler and United Way CEO David Smith will formally celebrate the launch of the plan on Thursday, December 13, 2018, at the Headliners Club. City and County officials, business leaders, and […]

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Advocacy Groups Demand Child Care Fixes After Statesman Investigation

Nearly two dozen advocacy groups are calling for improvements to the Texas child care system in the wake of an American-Statesman investigation that found dangerous conditions in many daycares across the state. The groups have sent a letter to Gov. Greg Abbott, state legislators and the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, asking them to, among other things: increase the number of caregivers required to look after children at licensed daycares; require the state to collect data on the connection between caregiver-to-child ratios and unsafe daycare environments; and improve access to quality daycare. “The advocacy world for children and providers has been working for years to improve standards,” said Kim Kofron, executive director for the Texas Association for the Education of Young Children. “It’s time we get something done.” The letter was signed by 23 child welfare advocacy groups including Texans Care for Children, Children’s Defense Fund and United Way for Greater Austin. The Statesman this month published “Unwatched,” a three-day, 12-part investigative series that found that nearly 90 children had died of abuse and neglect suffered in child cares since 2007, while another 450 were sexually abused. Though thousands of children have been injured, lax oversight has allowed hundreds of daycares with scores of violations to continue operating without serious consequences. The Statesman investigation found that child care operators receive paltry fines for violations, averaging about $100, and generally are not fined for the most serious violations, such as hitting or pinching children. “Unwatched” also pointed out that even though nearly half of the […]

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Family Connects: North Carolina Nurses’ Home Visits With New Parents Are Paying Off

  “We talk about children being the future of our economy, the future of our society, but they are human beings NOW, they are part of our community NOW.” We are incredibly proud to have launched the Texas chapter of Family Connects this past August and are excited to see the impact this home-visiting model has in our community. Watch the video or visit www.FamilyConnectsTexas.org to learn more.

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Commentary: It’s Time to Address the Broken Child Care System In Texas

Texas children deserve better. It is likely you picked up the paper this week and it broke your heart. The stories of parents who lost their children are devastating, and we are thankful to the Austin American-Statesman for taking an in-depth look into an issue of such importance to young children and working families in our community. The first five years of a child’s life are a critical period when 90 percent of all brain development occurs. What happens in these early years has a lasting impact from kindergarten readiness to high school graduation and beyond. For working parents, finding the right care for their children can be among the most difficult—and expensive—parenting decisions they face. The American-Statesman rightly questions who is “watching” our children. But licensing oversight is just one piece of a complex system that is fragile, fragmented and chronically underfunded at the state and federal level. Every child in Austin deserves access to high-quality, accredited early care and education. And every working parent deserves confidence in knowing their children are in a safe, nurturing environment while they work to provide for their families. Accreditation requires meeting standards well above basic health and safety licensing rules. This high-quality care provides a warm, responsive environment led by well-educated and compensated teachers with low student-teacher ratios, evidence-based curriculum and parent engagement. Unfortunately, low wages in the child care industry stifle educational attainment and drive high turnover among child care workers in the region. Quality child care is expensive but yields […]

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United Way Launches the Family Opportunity Roadmap: 
The 2-Generation Strategic Plan for Austin/Travis County

AUSTIN, Texas –  All families deserve access to opportunity. However, systems that perpetuate intergenerational poverty threaten the wellbeing of Austin’s residents and its economy, leaving far too many families behind. In Travis County, more than one-third of households with children younger than 18 years old are low income. Meanwhile, employers in our community struggle to find trained candidates to fill well-paying middle-skill jobs. Austin’s current workforce gap is projected to continue to grow and reach more than 60,000 openings for middle-skill jobs by 2021.  For many parents who are eager to fill these positions, access to affordable, high-quality child care stands in the way. Although there are many promising anti-poverty programs in Austin, most focus solely on adults or their children, missing the opportunity to foster economic mobility for whole families. The 2-Gen approach to family economic opportunity brings services and resources for parents and children together, ultimately leading to better outcomes for both generations.   Over the past several years, leaders across sectors in Austin/Travis County have worked together to better understand and promote a dual-generational (2-Gen) approach aimed at disrupting the cycle of intergenerational poverty. With the release of the Austin/Travis County 2-Gen Strategic Plan, Austin’s nonprofit and municipal leaders are laying the groundwork to intentionally coordinate services for parents and children over the next five years. Austin Mayor Steve Adler and United Way CEO David Smith will formally celebrate the launch of the plan on Thursday, December 13, 2018, at the Headliners Club. City and County officials, […]

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United Way for Greater Austin Announces 2018-2021 Community Investment Grant Funded Partners

AUSTIN, Texas – United Way for Greater Austin announced their 2018-2021 Community Investment Grant funded partners. United Way will collectively award twenty-eight agencies a total of $1.4 million under two distinct funding opportunities.   The path to poverty starts at an early age when low-income children do not have access to the same opportunities as their more advantaged peers. In Travis County, 42 percent of all children under six years of age are living in low-income families. That is almost 40,000 children who wake up each morning in homes where economic insecurity forces families to choose between paying their ever-rising rent or purchasing groceries.   United Way’s Community Investment Grants (CIGs) support their partner organizations to tackle the community’s greatest challenges. Through high-quality, data-driven programs, United Way seeks to ensure that Austin’s youngest, most vulnerable children and their families have the support and resources they need to break the cycle of poverty.   United Way focuses funding in two priority areas: Success By 6 (SB6) – Early Childhood Development: Through the Success By 6 initiatives, CIGs support programs to ensure that children are happy, health and set up for success in school and life. 2-Gen – Wrap-Around Family Support: 2-Gen CIGs address two generations in each family by supporting programs that provide families with equitable access to economic and social opportunities and ensure families in Central Texas are physically and mentally healthy.   With these two areas, United Way lifts up the resources to address holistic family needs to fight […]

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Texas Family Connects Has First Home Visit In Austin, Travis County

AUSTIN, Texas – Every family needs support following the birth of a child. The United Way forGreater Austin is pleased to announce the launch of the Texas Family Connects Nurse Home Visiting Program. Texas Family Connects will benefit all families, including those that are frequently overlooked or underserved through current outreach methods – families who may not have been connected to services otherwise.   WHO: United Way for Greater Austin and Texas Family Connects – Travis County   WHAT: Announcement of first home visit with the Texas Family Connects nurse home visiting program in Austin/Travis County. Texas Family Connects is a voluntary, evidence-based Travis County community-wide nurse home visiting and referral program is for every family with a newborn. It is specifically designed to decrease instances of maltreatment by screening for risk and providing access to intervention early in a child’s life. The initiative has launched with all families giving birth at the St. David’s South Austin Medical Center with plans to expand to serve every family with a new baby in Travis County.   WHEN: September 4, 2018   WHERE: St. David’s South Austin Medical Center, 901 W Ben White Blvd, Austin, TX 78704   WHY: Texas Family Connects – Travis County is officially up in running, with a plan to give babies the best possible start in life.   This program is a partnership between United Way for Greater Austin and Austin Public Health. The City of Austin’s Public Health Department to offer every family with a newborn in […]

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United Way for Greater Austin Launches Partnership with United Way Worldwide and Lyft to Provide Free Rides to Eligible Citizens

AUSTIN, Texas – United Way for Greater Austin is pleased to launch a new partnership with Lyft and United Way Worldwide to provide free rides to those with unmet transportation needs.   In 2017, United Way for Greater Austin took more than 5,000 transportation-related calls, 423 were from veterans and 1,629 were requesting help with medical transportation. As the suburbanization of poverty increases, with low-income families moving further away from the city, the amount of people with unmet transportation needs increases. Transportation calls come into 2-1-1 for many reasons including a cancer patient needing transportation to a chemo appointment, a mother needing assistance getting her young son to the doctor, an individual trying to access a food pantry we referred them to. Transportation needs in Austin prevent many of our citizens from gaining access to the resources or immediate help they need, and the Lyft-United Way partnership seeks to address that.   On June 4, 2018, the six-month pilot program began in twelve markets around the nation. The goal of the partnership is to eliminate barriers around transportation by scheduling free rides to clients in the Austin Metro Area. United Way for Greater Austin defines the Metro Area as Austin, Round Rock, Del Valle, Cedar Park, Pflugerville and Buda.   Lyft and United Way are joining forces to provide free rides to those in need through the 2-1-1 system. Lyft has committed $1.5 million to the Lyft Relief Rides program in Atlanta, Austin, Boston, Cleveland, Denver, Houston, Milwaukee, Nashville, Orlando, […]

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ABC, 123 & Everything In Between

Literacy is often at the intersection of many issues affecting the well-being of our community, so it’s vital to place a big focus on improving literacy. The Literacy Coalition of Central Texas is building stronger communities by ensuring that individuals and families have the skills they need to thrive. Their clients are often the hardest to reach – adults with below third-grade reading level, parents whose busy schedules render them unable to participate in other programs, recent immigrants with low English proficiency, and survivors of trauma. A,B,C,1,2,3 and everything in between is all in a day’s work for the folks at the Literacy Coalition. Through work with partner agencies, they are lifting up the sector as a whole by training instructors, providing more capacity for their work, and responding to network-identified needs. Through its programs, the LCCT leads and manages multiple levels of skill-building efforts to positively impact underserved individuals who are strengthening their language and workplace skills. Literacy Coalition programs include: AmeriCorps direct service English at Work Integrated Education and Training Literacy Forward PALS (Playing and Learning Strategies) Social Services The Learning Center AmeriCorps VISTA   When people think about literacy, they often think about kids learning to read, but literacy is so much more than that. At the LCCT, there is a strong focus on literacy outside the K-12 arena, working side by side with young children and adults on early childhood literacy, adult education, vocational training, digital literacy, and English language skills. Their programs empower people to […]

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Any Baby Can – And It Takes A Village

Parenting is hard (said every new parent, ever). It can be hard in the absolute best of circumstances.  There are creeping doubts, fears and obstacles that you could never imagine until you are faced with them. All parents harbor concern about their children’s futures. The Any Baby Can staff also know that parenting is even harder without the things that many of us take for granted: resources for our children, access to information and education, heating in cold months, stable housing, and food on the table every night. That is why they are proudly committed to their mission of Strengthening Families so Children Succeed. With a 40–year history in Central Texas, Any Baby Can is a go-to resource for parents and families with unique challenges. From first-time parents, families whose children have developmental or medical needs, Any Baby Can is there to support parents and help them overcome obstacles to set their family up for success. They guide parents in building confidence, nurturing relationships, and planning for the future so their children—and the entire family—can reach their full potential. Throughout Any Baby Can’s 40 years, they have built up their wrap-around support to make success accessible for families. Caring for their client’s immediate needs is of utmost importance as they ensure families have the resources, time and skills they need to succeed. Through caring for the community, Any Baby Can establishes strong relationships with clients, providing a truly stable force in their lives. The wraparound services offered by Any Baby […]

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