We take a collective approach to advancing supports for parenting students and promoting broad public system reform as a means of promoting economic justice for all families, especially those with low incomes who interface most frequently with public systems. We center the experiences and needs of families through a combination of strategies including long-term collaboration, as well as qualitative interviews and surveys. We believe that developing meaningful solutions can only be achieved if our policy work is driven by what families determine they need in ways that they determine work best.
In 2022, the Center for the Study of Social Policy co-designed research with parenting students to better understand the barriers experienced by parenting students participating in CalWORKs, California’s cash assistance program for families with children. This research is a partnership with the CalWORKs Association and Project SPARC—a cohort of parenting CalWORKs students from California community colleges working to dismantle barriers for families.
The research found that while parenting CalWORKs students are highly motivated, they too often struggle to achieve their goals because public systems are not designed to meet families’ needs and create barriers to their success.
Watch a presentation, led by SPARC parent leaders, that shares more on the research findings and tells the story of how parenting students balance enormous responsibilities while navigating a range of public systems not designed for their families’ needs.
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