The Pennsylvania departments of Education (PDE) and Human Services (DHS) recently announced a Request for Information (RFI) to broaden the departments’ perspectives on models that support access to and engagement in postsecondary education, training, and family-sustaining employment opportunities for economically disadvantaged families.
“Economically disenfranchised families and single-parent households face significant barriers to accessing higher education or postsecondary job training. When you’re balancing your family’s immediate needs and trying to make ends meet, taking time off work to seek education and training may be impossible,” said Human Services Secretary Teresa Miller. “By gaining a comprehensive understanding of programs that work to address these barriers for families and single parents, we can identify opportunities to further support families and show them that their highest potential is achievable.”
Responses collected through the RFI will inform the departments as they consider a range of education and training opportunities for low-income individuals and families to ensure they are meeting the whole person’s needs and providing a strong foundation for long-term success in the workforce. This will broaden the departments’ awareness and understanding of multigenerational, comprehensive education and training opportunities that address barriers like housing, child care, and other needs. The departments also hope to gain an understanding of the local feasibility of a multi-generational program with comprehensive support services.
The RFI is inspired by the success of Misericordia University’s Bourger Women with Children Program (WWC). Misericordia’s program provides single mothers with up to three children the opportunity to pursue a college degree while receiving supports to balance their children’s needs. The program also provides family housing, financial assistance, work-study opportunities, access to quality child care, meal plans for children, family and child development programming, and connects participants to programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and child care subsidy.
“An investment in education is the key to good-paying jobs and sustainable career pathways, but many families face barriers and life challenges that can make it difficult for them to obtain this knowledge and training,” said Secretary of Education Pedro A. Rivera. “Programs like Women with Children provide single mothers access to high-quality education, while providing support services to their children that will allow the family to flourish and have a sustainable future. We want to gather information from other organizations who run similar programs, so we can develop the best programs available to assist even more families.”
First established in 2000, the WWC program is able to support 16 single mothers with up to three children each. Twenty-eight women have graduated from the program as of the 2017-2018 academic year with 100 percent placement in their respective career paths. Overall, the program has a 90 percent retention rate since its establishment.