DALLAS TWP. — A major new effort to lift families out of poverty spans five counties and involves more than two dozen organizations. One of them, Misericordia University, hosted a media event on Thursday to unveil the scale and multigenerational goals of “Parent Pathways of Northeastern Pennsylvania.” “
The program may seem succinctly summed up in a blurb in a distributed press kit: “Parent Pathways of Northeastern Pennsylvania guides parents out of poverty through access to higher education and professional careers that support family”.
But as representatives of several organizations involved have made clear, the new push to break the cycle of poverty for many low-income parents with children is anything but simple.
Gretchen Hunt of the Economic Opportunity Commission, an “anchor partner” of the program, stressed that it is not enough for parents to have a job, even if they pay reasonably well. With children, economic success may require “reliable child care” and “strong ties to the community.” She cited Misericordia’s Ruth Matthews Bourger Women With Children program, which gives single mothers a chance to live for free while pursuing a college education, as an example of how to make big changes to a family’s chances of getting married. escape poverty.
Noting that Women With Children provides significant support by connecting mothers to available social services and constantly encouraging them to resolve issues, Hunt said it “incorporates all the elements of success.”
Women With Children director Katherine Pohlidal called the Parent Pathway program a “new holistic approach” designed to connect existing local programs that help low-income parents with opportunities to advance their education. It starts with parents filling out a one-page “Pathfinder form” which, in turn, “identifies what the parents would like to do.”
The large number of organizations involved – spanning Luzerne, Lackawanna, Wyoming, Wayne and Susquehanna counties – are working to ensure there is a ‘warm passage’ as one agency can direct parents to another in the lawsuit identified goals, Pohlidal said.
The program was designed with the help of The Institute, a collaboration between 13 institutions of higher learning, with support from the CEO and the Robin Hood Foundation, a New York City poverty relief organization. To be eligible, participants must reside in one of the five counties and have an income not exceeding 250% of the federal poverty guidelines for the head of household and their dependent children.
Other partners include Unite Pennsylvania, a coordinated care network of health and human service agencies that use a shared technology platform to enable electronic referrals and information sharing; Persistence Plus, a service providing students with messages designed to motivate sustainable behavior, something Pohlidal likened to how women with children “nudge” students toward success; and RESULTS, a group of volunteers trained to advocate for changes in government policy or funding that can have the greatest impact on poverty reduction.
Asia Thomspon Olieman, a Women With Children program graduate who is now a lawyer, is a senior associate involved with Results and spoke at Thursday’s event. “Our goal is to find people struggling with poverty and empower them,” she said.
At the end of the event, Pohlidal invited network partners Parent Pathways of Northeastern Pennsylvania to the stage at Misericordia’s Lemmond Theater, gathering 24 people — all but one women — for a group photo.
For more information, visit parentpathwaysofnepa.org.
Contact Mark Guydish at 570-991-6112 or on Twitter @TLMarkGuydish