Family Economic Mobility Toolkit

Introduction to Family Economic Mobility

Understanding family economic mobility and how it's connected to family well-being and the Head Start program's central purpose will help provide an important foundation for your work with families. Take that understanding to the next level with insights on how to approach family economic mobility work with families from a strength-based perspective, how to advance equity through your work, and how to build skills for having sensitive conversations across family economic mobility goal areas.

What is family economic mobility?

Family economic mobility is improvement in a family’s economic well-being. Family economic well-being describes the extent to which a family:

  • Feels in control of their economic situation or has economic stability.
  • Has hope for the future.
  • Has knowledge of and access to the resources and opportunities they need to promote healthy child development and make the best decisions for themselves.

Economic well-being is defined and experienced by each family individually. Common conditions that support economic well-being include:

  • Access to clothing and nutritious food
  • Safe and stable housing
  • Health care
  • Quality education
  • Good jobs
  • Reliable caregivers
  • Supportive connections
  • Savings, emergency funds
  • Mental health resources

A family’s economic well-being is influenced by multiple complex factors, including but not limited to:

  • Structural racism and economic systems[1]
  • Individual behaviors[2]
  • Mental health[3]
  • Trauma[4]
  • Family culture[5]
  • Neighborhood characteristics[6]
  • Access to quality jobs[7]
  • Educational opportunities[8]
  • Government policies[9]

It’s About More Than Money

There is more to economic mobility than just money — and you are not expected to be a financial expert to support family economic mobility! You can partner with families to build a solid foundation that supports economic mobility in a variety of ways, including by:

  • Ensuring families’ basic needs are met.
  • Developing positive goal-oriented relationships with families, based on mutual trust and respect.
  • Partnering with families to develop family goals related to family economic mobility.
  • Sharing information, resources, and referrals with families, and following up on referrals.
  • Helping families take advantage of their strengths and supporting relationships.
  • Providing families with encouragement and feedback to feel empowered to take steps toward their economic mobility goals.
  • Helping families recognize and celebrate their achievements.
  • Helping families envision a future where positive change is possible.

Explore strategies for approaching family economic mobility work.

It’s Central to the Head Start Mission

The Head Start Project began as a two-generation, comprehensive services program designed to break the cycle of poverty. Since its inception in 1965, the Head Start program has continued to evolve to support child and family outcomes[10]. Head Start programs partner with families to support early learning and development, health, and family well-being. Family economic mobility is a core aspect of family well-being, one of the seven Family Outcomes in the Parent, Family, and Community Engagement (PFCE) Framework. Program leaders, staff, and families partner together to build strengths-based relationships and make progress toward family economic mobility.

Learn more about family economic mobility (FEM) and the:

Family economic mobility efforts aim to reduce family and child poverty by increasing access to financial, educational, and job opportunities. According to Child Trends, reducing child poverty and promoting economic mobility positively impacts child, family, and community-outcomes, providing long-term benefits to families and society[11].

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