Section B: Preventing Intergenerational Disconnection by Ensuring Boys of Color Enter School Ready to Learn and Read at Grade Level by the Third Grade


Nearly one-quarter of disconnected youth are parents of young children. When noncustodial parents are included, that number is even higher. Contrary to popular misconceptions about the roles young men of color play in their children’s lives, a study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revealed that fathers of color were just as, or even more, involved with their children compared to other groups. As the data shows, black fathers are more likely than white fathers to help their children with their homework, and Hispanic fathers are more likely than white fathers to share meals with their children daily.

Existing research and data reinforces what we already know. The success of both disconnected youth and their children is inextricably tied together. Research shows, for example, that there is a unique correlation between a father’s level of educational attainment and his son’s future success. Moreover, sons of fathers who have graduated from high school are less likely to come in contact with the justice system. The challenges facing parents—low wages, poor health, and limited education—affect their children’s educational, social, and emotional development.

Programs and services are often created and structured in a way that focuses primarily on either the parent or the child. A “two-generation” approach is needed to help disconnected fathers and their children simultaneously, ensuring families as a whole have the tools they need to thrive.


“My dad is my role model because he pays attention to me a lot and he pays attention to his kids and he wants to us to go to college and be successful and we want to put him in a safer place when he gets older.”

— The Griots of Oakland

Source: Zusman, A. (2013). The Griots of Oakland: Voices from the African-American Oral History Project. Oakland, CA: Story for All

Two-generation approaches, programs, and policies are essential to eliminate intergenerational cycles of poverty. Not only do these approaches provide the necessary interventions for young parents, but they also help prevent their children from becoming disconnected later in life. Leaders serving disconnected fathers of color should consider and address the unique needs of this population through strategies such as providing flexible schedules and child care. Leaders serving young boys of color should take into consideration the employment, educational, and health and human service needs of the fathers of these boys, including noncustodial fathers. Programs should also provide opportunities for intergenerational projects and co-learning, along with opportunities for peer-to-peer support.

In addition to employing a two-generation approach to support young fathers of color and their children, preventative strategies can help ensure boys achieve critical milestones early in life. Quality early education is critical to laying the groundwork for future success. Not reading at grade level by the third grade is a powerful indicator — more so than poverty alone — that a person will drop out of high school.

An alarming statistic is that by the fourth grade, white boys are two times more likely than Hispanic boys and three times more likely than black boys to read at grade level. Strategies such as innovative and culturally competent curricula, small-group instructions, effective summer educational activities, educational technology, and mentorship can help boys of color achieve academic, social, and emotional success.

Not reading at grade level is a powerful indicator of dropping out of high school later in life. Among low-income students, proficiency in third grade reading is a better predictor of dropping out of high school than is race/ethnicity.


“Growing up, my mom, when she was single, my dad was never around. And then I had a younger sister I had to take care of. My mom, we barely had the minimum. She provided food and everything that we needed. She was always busy, so we never really saw her, so I was always in charge of my little sister. Going to school, I did good...then once I hit high school, I had to step up and get a job and help out. So I started going away from school, and I got a job, and helped my mom out and take care of my little sister, so little by little I fell out of school. At the time money was more important, ’cause we had to get by day by day. So that’s when I lost track and just dropped out.”

- Freddy

Source: The Center for Promise at America’s Promise Alliance. (2015). “Don’t Quit on Me: What Young People Who Left School Say About the Power of Relationships.” Boston: Center for Promise, Tufts University.

Supporting Disconnected Boys and Men of Color Through Two-Generation Approaches

Learn the Different Features That Make a Policy or Program Two Generation.

Read the “Ascend Two-Generation Playbook” to understand the essential components of the two-generation approach. The playbook includes snapshots of programs and policies from across the nation that are addressing the social capital, educational, health, well-being, and economic needs of parents and their children holistically. In addition, consult the Foundation for Child Development’s “Promoting Two-Generation Strategies: A Getting Started Guide for State and Local Policy Makers,” which describes how to facilitate factors that support two-generation approaches, presents local examples, provides steps to get started, and offers state and local policy recommendations.

Cultivate Partnerships Across Agencies and Sectors.

Foster partnerships between organizations and agencies, both inside and outside of government, that provide services for disconnected youth and young children. Determine ways to unite efforts in a cohesive and coordinated manner that goes beyond referrals to external services. To get started, find champions in your community to help advocate for and lead the effort to change the status quo. Identify potential partners in employment, education, and health and human services. Convene partners to share the types of steps and supports needed to employ two-generation approaches. Finally, establish ways to break through the current siloed ways of operating, including creating communication channels across agencies and levels of leadership.

Align and Link Systems, and Coordinate Administrative Structures Among Entities Supporting Disconnected Men of Color and Their Children.

It is important to measure and account for outcomes for both disconnected men of color and their children, including eligibility standards and performance benchmarks. Make sure that accountability systems use indicators that reflect the whole family’s well-being. Integrated data systems allow providers, policymakers and the public to sue data to make informed decisions.

A helpful set of related resources and case studies is available from Actionable Intelligence for Social Policy (AISP), which supports a network of cities and states as they work toward integrating their data systems. For example, their website discusses how Illinois is connecting administrative data on early childhood programs, employment, education, health care, juvenile justice, and child welfare.

Identify and Blend or Braid Funding Streams to Serve Disconnected Youth and Their Children.

Find flexible funds that can be used to support existing two-generation programs, as well as to incentivize existing “single-generation” programs to incorporate two-generation strategies. For example, Durham, North Carolina and New Orleans completed a fiscal map—a cross-department analysis of public funding—to identify all their existing funding for opportunity youth and their children. Take a look at “Adding It Up: A Guide for Mapping Public Resources for Children, Youth & Families” if you are interested in mapping your existing funds. Review the “Colorado Guide 1: Blending and Braiding” or the “Accelerating Opportunity Braided Funding Toolkit” to learn the steps that can be taken to combine and coordinate different pots of funding. In addition, consider applying for a federal Performance Partnership Pilot, described in the Strategies and Resources that Span the Milestones section of this toolkit. One of the first cohort of pilots used policy flexibility to support a two-generation effort.

Leverage Federal Programs, Such as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG), and the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) to Apply Two-Generation Strategies.

The TANF block grant provides states with broad flexibility in determining which families to prioritize and the type of services to provide. CCDBG supports working families in accessing quality child care and other services provided to parents. CCDBG offers states the opportunity to integrate funding across Head Start, TANF, prekindergarten, and other child development programs. Access your state’s fact sheet on CCDBG and profile on Head Start via CLASP’s interactive publications map.

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Leveraging the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA)

The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) is federal legislation that encompasses the core federal programs in skill development programs, such as employment and training services for adults, dislocated workers, and youth; Job Corps; and Youth Build. Visit the Department of Labor Employment and Training Administration WIOA page for more information on the legislation.

WIOA provides a unique opportunity to develop a comprehensive system of supports for serving out-of-school youth and their children. Ascend at Aspen Institute, a hub for breakthrough ideas and collaborations that move children and their parents toward educational success and economic security, has developed the “Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act and Two-Generation Strategies brief” which outlines the following “Five Strategies for Two- Generation Engagement” through WIOA.

  1. Design state plans that provide enhanced coordination between human services providers and workforce training and postsecondary education programs to identify and better serve shared populations. WIOA explicitly prioritizes services to low-income individuals and those with barriers to employment, many of whom also receive Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits. By integrating human services and workforce development programs, local, state, and national service providers can more effectively and efficiently serve at-risk populations, including low-income parents who are students.

  1. Take advantage of WIOA’s significant investment in low-income young adults, many of whom are parents. WIOA mandates that 75 percent of statewide grants and funds available to local areas under Title I of the law be spent on workforce development programs for out-of-school youth. These funds can be used to help young adults secure living-wage jobs or return to school.

  1. Recognize the importance of providing convenient, affordable child care to parents attending school or workforce development programs. Use WIOA resources to incentivize partnerships with childcare providers that deliver high-quality early childhood education programming.

  2. Provide year-round support for student parents. Coordinate workforce development or postsecondary education programs with human services, housing and food assistance, and childcare programs so that low-income parents can access the support they need 12 months a year, regardless of their school schedule.

  3. Workforce development programs to count towards TANF work requirements and child care subsidy eligibility terms. Student parents are more likely to achieve educational success if their enrollment in school or workforce training programs is treated as work.

Supporting Disconnected Fathers of Color

Ensure Academic Reengagement Efforts by Using Strategies, Such as Flexible Scheduling Hours, That Support Young Fathers of Color.

Reconnecting to school is a daunting endeavor. Trying to do so while taking care of children can be nearly impossible. Programs cannot effectively reconnect disconnected youth without also helping them succeed as parents. Consider implementing extended and flexible hours for support services, and on-site early childhood education programming, to accommodate work schedules that are often inflexible.

Consider the Needs of Parenting Students on College Campuses by Establishing a Collaboration Between Postsecondary Institutions and Health and Human Service Agencies to Provide and Improve Wraparound Supports and Services.

Find ways to maximize federal resources like the Child Care Access Means Parents in School program, which provides a grant to universities and colleges to deliver campus-based child care services, program supports to parents, and curriculum development for faculty and staff.

Find and Connect with Local Head Start and Early Head Start Programs.

Head Start, one of the most well-known federal programs to use a two-generation approach, provides comprehensive development services for children under five, as well as comprehensive support services for parents and their families. Although underfunded—in 2013, only 40% of eligible three and four year olds were served—local programs can be a great partner in implementing two-generation strategies in your community. For example, the Chicago Department of Family and Support Services is leading a Performance Partnership Pilots (P3) for Disconnected Youth, through which they are working with the Chicago-Cook Workforce Partnership, to blend WIOA and Head Start funds to create a two-generation approach for young mothers. Elements of the pilot include social-emotional learning and cognitive-behavior therapy sessions led weekly by a mentor; biweekly home visits; paid work experience and job training in early learning education; and parent/child activities. Find Head Start programs in your area.

The Office of Head Start at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services spotlights Dwayne Drummond and the Philadelphia Head Start Program’s two-generation approach to serving fathers. Here is an excerpt:

“At the school district of the Philadelphia Head Start program, I was introduced to a program called FAMILY -- Father’s Advocating Male Involvement in the Lives of the Youth,” he said. “And when I first went to this meeting, I just got hooked on it and I have been there ever since.” Drummond was surrounded by mentors who show program participants who never had a father in their lives how to be a father, but most importantly how to be an effective father. “I appreciate that group,” said Drummond. “They give that whole family-oriented feeling.”

“We have a lot of students from all around the world -- some from Bangladesh, some from Iraq, some are Cajun, and some are African-American,” said Drummond. “Cultural diversity made me a better person dealing with parents. It also made my child a better person by giving her that experience that she might not be given in my neighborhood.”

Access the full article here.

Include Support Services and Programming Specifically for Fathers and Non-Custodial Parents.

Provide opportunities for meaningful two-generation programming in which fathers and their children work together on community, civic, or arts/cultural projects. Adopt a model similar to that developed by Philadelphia’s Office of Early Childhood and Education, which implements a program called Fathers Advocating Male Involvement in the Lives of Youth (FAMILY) through their local Head Start effort. FAMILY involves men in their children’s education, with fathers participating in monthly meetings and events focused on promoting child and family well-being.

Supporting Boys of Color to Prevent Future Disconnection

Eliminate Zero-Tolerance Policies in Early Childhood Education.

Preschools and other early childhood education settings are expelling and suspending three- and four-year-olds at disturbing rates, with boys of color being expelled far more frequently than other children. States like California have taken steps toward rethinking discipline practices that expel students in prekindergarten to third grade. Recommendations on how your state can develop a road map to reduce and ultimately eliminate zero-tolerance policies in early childhood education can be found in “Expulsion and Suspension Polices in Early Childhood Settings,” a policy brief from the U.S. Departments of Education and Health and Human Services. The brief includes recommendations and resources for program leaders.

Prioritize and Address the Needs of Children with Incarcerated Parents.

As the Annie E. Casey Family Foundation reports in “A Shared Sentence Report: the devastating toll of parental incarceration on kids, families and communities,” “. . . in America’s age of mass incarceration, millions of children are suffering the consequence of their parents’ sentences and our nation’s tough-on-crime practices.” The report outlines recommendations for addressing the needs of, and strengthening supports for, the children, families, and communities of those incarcerated. The reports call out the importance of “ensuring children are supported while parents are incarcerated and after they return,” through counseling, preservation of a relationship with the parent, appropriate and safe family reunification, and family caregiver supports. Other recommendations include “connecting parents who have returned to the community with pathways to employment,” such as reforming policies to suspend child support orders during a parent’s incarceration, and “strengthening communities, particularly those disproportionately affected by incarceration and re-entry, to promote family stability and opportunity.” “Rights to Realties – An Agenda for Action,” by the San Francisco Children of Incarcerated Parents Partnership, outlines steps a community can take to implement the Children of Incarcerated Parents Bill of Rights.

Design Innovative and Culturally Competent Curricula That Boys of Color Find Relatable.

Cultural competence goes beyond the demographics of staff and students. Culturally competent curricula in early education provides diverse and relevant opportunities for students and their families. Staff are sensitive to family values, culture, and identity, and they use information about the family to adapt environments, curricula, and teaching methods. For examples of cultural competent criteria that span culture, special needs, ability, family, religion, race, socioeconomic status, gender, and general diversity, view the National Association for Education of Young Children brief, “Supporting Cultural Competence: Accreditation of Programs for Young Children Cross-Cutting Theme in Program Standard.

Implement Small-Group Instruction and Other Pedagogies That Promote the Active Engagement of Boys of Color.

Small-group instruction, free play, guided reading, and hands-on learning that are developmentally appropriate are strategies teachers can use to engage students. Learn how schools and programs across the nation are using innovative and promising practices to promote literacy among young children. The Campaign for Grade-Level Reading highlights “bright spots schools,” “bright spots programs,” and “bright spots communities” in promoting school readiness, preventing chronic absence, combating summer learning loss, and supporting quality teaching.

Minimize Summer Learning Loss and Maximize Summer Opportunities.

Summer is a time when students who are not engaged in effective educational activities can lose academic knowledge. Many students in high-poverty communities lose access to healthy meals and adult supervision. The Summer Opportunity Project—a collaboration among the White House, the National Summer Learning Association, and other agencies—has created resources to empower community leaders to provide quality summer learning opportunities, meals, and jobs for the young people that need it the most. View their “2016 Summer Opportunities Funding Resource Guide” and the “Mayor’s Summer Learning Playbook.

Employ Strategies Such as Educational Technology and Media Solutions.

Advancements in technology make it easier than ever to access information and education. “Pioneering Literacy in the Digital Wild West: Empowering Parents and Educators,” a report by the Campaign for Grade Level Reading, highlights digital products and promising practices and programs that use technology to promote literacy. The Obama Administration’s ConnectED initiative highlights resources for schools, teachers, and students made possible through corporate commitments. Among these are Adobe free teacher trainings and curriculum resources, edX access to online Advance Placement-level courses, and Sprint high-speed wireless broadband service. Also, be sure to leverage Open eBooks, an application that allows educators, program leaders, and librarians who work with youth in need to access high-quality books and educational resources for free or at a low cost.

Become a Mentor, Ensure That There Are Quality Mentor Programs in Your Area, and Incorporate Mentoring as a Part of Your Education, Community, and Youth Development Program.

Quality mentoring can play a significant role in addressing absenteeism and behavior problems. Chronic absenteeism is described as missing 10 percent of school’s days in one academic year. The Ad Council, My Brother’s Keeper (MBK), the U.S. Department of Education, and the Mott Foundation are working together to launch Absences Add Up, a public service announcement campaign focused on educating and empowering parents by providing information regarding chronic absenteeism and its effects. Additionally, MBK, the U.S. Department of Education, and Johns Hopkins University have launched the MBK Success Mentors Initiative, which uses an evidence-based mentoring model at scale to reduce chronic absenteeism. The initiative aims to reach over one million students in kindergarten to 12th grade over the next three to five years. Become a mentor and connect with local My Brother’s Keeper efforts on To learn more about the campaign and the MBK Success Mentors Initiative, review this fact sheet. Also, visit to access tools such as the Elements of Effective Practice for Mentoring and Mentoring Immigrants and Refugee Youth. Also available on this website is the My Brother’s Keeper Alliance and MENTOR’s webinar series and virtual trainings, which include “The Black Male Mentoring Handbook,” “Men in Mentoring Toolkit,” and “Culture and Class Conflicts in Mentoring-Mentee Matches.”

Preventing Intergenerational Disconnection by Ensuring Boys and Young Men of Color Enter School Ready to Learn and Read at Grade Level by the Third Grade

Supporting Disconnected Boys and Young Men of Color Through Two-Generation Approaches

  1. Learn the different features that make a policy or program two-generation.

  1. Cultivate partnerships across agencies and sectors.

  1. Align and link systems, and coordinate administrative structures among entities supporting disconnected men of color and their children.

  1. Identify and blend or braid funding streams to serve disconnected youth and their children.

  1. Leverage federal programs to apply two-generation strategies, like the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) and the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA).

Supporting Disconnected Fathers of Color

  1. Ensure academic reengagement efforts by using strategies such as flexible scheduling hours that support young fathers of color.

  1. Consider the needs of parenting students on college campuses by establishing a collaboration between postsecondary institutions and health and human service agencies to provide and improve wraparound supports and services.

  1. Find and connect with local Head Start and Early Head Start programs.

  1. Include support services and programming geared specifically to fathers and noncustodial parents.

Supporting Boys of Color to Prevent Future Disconnection

  1. Eliminate zero-tolerance policies in early childhood education.

  1. Prioritize and address the needs of children with incarcerated parents.

  1. Design innovative and culturally competent curricula that boys of color find relatable.

  1. Implement small-group instruction and other pedagogies that promote the active engagement of boys of color.

  1. Minimize summer learning loss and maximize summer opportunities.

  1. Employ strategies like educational technology and media solutions.

  1. Become a mentor, ensure that there are quality mentoring programs in your area, and incorporate mentoring as a part of your educational, community, and youth development programs.


Some of the most effective strategies for reconnecting disconnected boys and young men of color cut across the My Brother’s Keeper milestones. Supporting disconnected youth often requires helping in multiple aspects of their lives. Therefore, putting into place integrated approaches can be a particularly useful place to start.

  • Include disconnected boys and young men of color in developing and implementing your strategy.

  • Use a racial and gender equity lens and promote cultural competence and sensitivity in all facets of your work.

  • Gather data on your community’s disconnected boys and young men of color.

  • Determine how much funding is available and identify opportunities to leverage funds to serve disconnected boys and young men of color.

  • Ensure there is a mechanism to align governmental efforts for disconnected boys and young men of color.

  • Consider applying to become a federal Performance Partnership Pilots site.

  • Learn from networks and national place-based initiatives focused on boys and young men of color and opportunity youth.

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