New Pennsylvania Women Work program helps kids by helping parents

Parenting is tough on the budget for most people, but for Pennsylvania families living in poverty, prospects are especially dire. And it can be tough to break the cycle of poverty without a clear path forward.

But one Pittsburgh-based organization, Pennsylvania Women Work, has a new initiative to educate and support young parents. Called GROW, or Generations Realizing Occupational Wellness, it’s a program designed to help parents between 18 and 35 secure better jobs and reach financial stability.

“Our project helps parents gain access to resources by partnering with childcare providers in their neighborhoods and providing career readiness training in those facilities,” explains program manager Michael Cunningham.

Pennsylvania Women Work has a lengthy history supporting women through career readiness. The organization’s mission is to empower people in career transitions with the tools to pursue their goals and achieve economic independence.

Their New Choices program provides classes and individual consultations in areas such as career development and job searching – and 85 percent of its graduates find jobs or continue their educations. But New Choices is directed at individuals in transition – those embarking on single parenthood or returning to the workforce, for instance – and it tends to reach people over 40, not all of whom are parents.

According to the 2013 census bureau, 47 percent of Pennsylvania mothers with children under the age of 5 live in poverty. And in 2014, the Annie E. Casey Foundation published a report demonstrating that children living in poverty are best helped by a “two-generation approach,” in which supporting both parents and children improves living conditions for future generations.

A state-funded program, GROW is a direct response to the Casey report, targeting young, under-employed or unemployed, low-income parents with children in structured education programs. Participants take classes in a range of topics, including skills identification, financial management, goal setting, home/work balance, job searching, resume writing and more. They create achievable goals and ultimately follow through on plans to secure further education and/or employment. GROW organizers will also help to connect participants with potential employers by assisting with job applications and even by partnering with employers.

The GROW program is conducted at locations where childcare is already on hand, or easily supplied. So far, classes are under way in the Pittsburgh area at Crescent Elementary School in Homewood; they start this week at the Carnegie Public Library of Pittsburgh in Hazelwood, and more locations are planned on Pittsburgh’s North Side.

The GROW program is funded by the Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry with a grant from the Richard King Mellon Foundation.

Featured image courtesy of GROW/Pennsylvania Women Work.