Co-Location: Kenosha County’s Strategy to Move Parents to Work
Fourth installment of the “Self-Sufficiency Series: Solutions from the Field”
This series profiles local programs from across the country that are implementing “Principles of Economic Mobility” contained in President Trump’s Executive Order on Reducing Poverty in America by Promoting Opportunity and Economic Mobility.
For over 20 years, Kenosha County, Wisconsin, has experimented with how to deliver human services programming that puts people first, an effort true to the spirit of President Trump’s Executive Order on economic mobility reforms. It recognized the importance of co-location of services for families. This is especially evident in its approach to serving noncustodial parents who may be struggling to support their children. Beginning with Children First in 1994, and followed by Supporting Parents Supporting Kids (SPSK) in 2012, the county has continued to build on lessons learned to develop the most effective model for families to achieve self-sufficiency. Today, Children First SHARP (Supporting Parents, Holistic Case Management, Access to Employment, Reaching Goals, Positive Parenting) is an evidence-based model for serving noncustodial parents, standing on the shoulders of its predecessors.
Children First SHARP is a collaborative, one-stop approach between the Kenosha County Child Support Agency, Goodwill Industries, and a number of other community partners. Noncustodial parents who are struggling to pay their child support are identified and enrolled in the program by court order. Through intensive, trauma-informed case management, staff work with participants to develop a plan to move the parent to self-sufficiency. Services include job search, resume building, work supports, and participation in a weekly Children First Job Club that facilitates networking and peer support. Noncustodial parents may also participate in the Fatherhood program, known as Dedicated Dads, a 13-session, evidenced-based program founded on the Nurturing Fathers curriculum.
Kenosha is committed to continuous improvement and has developed a services tracking system to measure noncustodial parents’ employment and child support payment outcomes. Early analysis of SPSK shows that noncustodial parents who received enhanced case management are about 2.4 times more likely to find employment than those who didn’t receive that service. In the words of one father, “The SPSK program empowered me and pushed me towards positivity in my outlook of the future.”
With the majority of services housed under one roof, Kenosha County is committed to putting people first and never losing sight of the goal that all families achieve self-sufficiency.
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