Local Nonprofit Breaking Down Barriers to Poverty | Peachtree Corners Magazine

Local Nonprofit Breaking Down Barriers to Poverty | Peachtree Corners Magazine

In The News

Local Nonprofit Breaking Down Barriers to Poverty | Peachtree Corners Magazine

With gas prices soaring and supply chain issues driving up consumer prices, it’s not hard to imagine more individuals are struggling to make ends meet. Complicate those issues with a lack of education, medical issues, trouble within the home or other barriers to success and you find some families hanging by a thread. Some find themselves homeless.

The Peachtree Corners-based Georgia Center for Opportunity (GCO) is working to break down those barriers to ensure everyone has access to a quality education, fulfilling work and a healthy family life.

 
WATCH: These powerful stories show why we need to share the Success Sequence each and every day

WATCH: These powerful stories show why we need to share the Success Sequence each and every day

man on top of mountain

WATCH: These powerful stories show why we need to share the Success Sequence each and every day

Key Points

  • All young people — not just those who come from rich families — deserve to know this “secret to success”: get an education, work hard, get married, and then have children.
  •  No matter the challenges young people face, there is a path to build a bright future — through the Success Sequence.
  • Institute for Family Studies has shared 3 powerful videos that show the face and opportunity brought by the Success Sequence.

The Success Sequence and its impact

“The choice of having children too early is one you’ll have to play catch up with for the rest of your life.” 

“I wish that I had made some different decisions when I was young. Think before you act. Definitely be intentional about the decisions you’re making at that age, because they do have a lasting effect on your life.”

 “Having to get food donated to us was the bottom of my life.”

Those are just a few of the powerful quotes contained in the narrative stories — called Straight Talk About the Success Sequence — in a series of new videos on the Success Sequence from the Institute for Family Studies.

The basic premise of this campaign is simple: All young people — not just those who come from rich families — deserve to know this “secret to success”: get an education, work hard, get married, and then have children.

As you know, the Success Sequence is a powerful and proven way for even the most disadvantaged men and women to avoid poverty and to have a shot at the stable, happy family life they really want.

 

The Success Sequence:
His Story

Part One: Men

The numbers prove it all

Statistics show that 97% of young people who follow these steps are not poor later in life, and fully 85% of them enter the middle class.

Can it really be that simple? That’s what’s so great about the Success Sequence: The answer is simple, but the key is to get the information to young people at the right time.

No matter the challenges young people face, there is a path to build a bright future — through the Success Sequence.

It’s organizations like the Georgia Center for Opportunity that are bringing the truth of the Success Sequence to young people every day. Whether it’s GCO’s work to expand educational options for all students, bring career opportunities to the impoverished, or bringing relationship enrichment classes to local communities, we are on the front lines. The Institute for Family Studies recognizes this.

The Success Sequence:
Her Story

Part Two: Women

“The Success Sequence is only effective as a concept if it’s shared in practical ways with young people,” said Brad Wilcox, senior fellow at the Institute for Family Studies. “On-the-ground organizations like the Georgia Center for Opportunity play a key role in this. Our young people deserve to know about their potential to take hold of the American Dream.”

Please share these important videos on social media, with your friends and family, and with young people in your life who need to hear this important message. We need to spread the word on the Success Sequence so that other young people don’t face the same struggles in life faced by Scott, Stephanie, and Caylie and Carlos.

The Success Sequence:
Their Story

Part Three: Cohabitation

Why Nonprofits Should Care and What to Do

Why Nonprofits Should Care and What to Do

Why Nonprofits Should Care and What to Do

mother and baby
Key Takeaways:
  • Welfare cliffs and marriage penalties are discouraging people from work and forming families.
  • The cliffs and penalties may mean that our clients are locked into poverty for much longer than they would be otherwise and despite our best efforts.
  • GCO has created a platform that allows anyone to see when a particular family can expect to experience benefit cliffs as they earn more money through work. 

Important Link: BenefitsCliff.org

 

If you work in a nonprofit serving the poor, you need to know that the government benefits your clients receive are likely discouraging them from working or forming a family, two things that research shows could lift them out of poverty the fastest. 

This is an especially tough problem for nonprofits, like GCO, that work to get their clients into good-paying jobs and strengthen their family relationships.

What’s going on?

These disincentives to work are often called “welfare cliffs” and the disincentives to family formation are called “marriage penalties.” Essentially, “cliffs” are generated any time a person receiving government benefits gets a raise at work that causes them to lose more in benefits than they will earn in additional income from the raise. These same individuals can face a similar financial penalty IF they decide to marry. In many cases, they will lose more in benefits than their spouse is able to provide in new income to the household.

While you would think (hope?) cliffs and penalties are rare, they are not. Instead, they are baked into the structure of nearly all welfare programs and many of the cliffs are severe. It’s also important to know that welfare recipients don’t face a single cliff or a single penalty, but they face cliffs and penalties at a number of different points as they have additional income from working or through marriage.

Why does it matter?

For nonprofit leaders, the cliffs and penalties may mean that our clients are locked into poverty for much longer than they would be otherwise and despite our best efforts. For workforce development nonprofits, cliffs could be the underlying reason why your clients don’t pick up additional work hours when they are offered or seem less than excited when they are offered a good promotion. In extreme cases, clients may quit jobs that seemed like a perfect fit simply because they panic when they learn they may lose a major benefit – like housing or childcare.

For nonprofits trying to help strengthen family relationships, marriage penalties may be driving behavior that is otherwise inexplicable, like seemingly happy couples refusing to marry or live in the same home. These dynamics can lead to stress for the couples affected and to a sense that a parent (usually the father) has abandoned the family when, if the system would allow it, he would be in the home. In these cases, children pay the biggest price.

What can you do about it?

Fortunately, we have created a platform that allows anyone to see when a particular family can expect to experience benefit cliffs as they earn more money through work. For nonprofits working with these families, you now have a tool (available for 10 states, with two more on the way) that will allow you to help your clients plan for the future. In some cases, knowing when cliffs are likely to happen will allow your clients to seek a larger raise that will help them bypass or leapfrog a cliff. In other cases, maybe the answer is seeking additional training or certifications that will get your client into a different payscale entirely – one that avoids the cliffs.

In the coming weeks, we will be adding a tool that will allow users to see the impact of penalties on couples who decide to marry. We will also be incorporating a solutions tool that will allow anyone to see how reforming our government benefit programs can actually eliminate cliffs and penalties entirely, giving recipients every reason to pursue work and form stable households.

For GCO, it is this last point – reforming the system – that remains the ultimate goal. In the meantime, we are looking for ways to mitigate the harm caused by the welfare system, so that as many people as possible can escape the system and break cycles of poverty now.



The Success Sequence provides an outline of how to reverse the cycle of poverty in our communities. GCO uses this as a framework for much of our work.

An epidemic of teen depression (and what to do about it)

An epidemic of teen depression (and what to do about it)

An epidemic of teen depression (and what to do about it)

teens helping and hugging mental health

An epidemic of teen depression (and what to do about it)

Key Takeaways:

  • In the last 10 years, the number of teens identifying as having “experienced persistent feelings of sadness and hopelessness” doubled.
  • School connectedness was a key barometer of how well teens fared mentally.
  • Teens tend to be more isolated than their peers of past decades, more reliant on social media and smartphones to create a type of “pseudo community.”
  • GCO’s priorities is to offer relationship enrichment classes in local communities and schools.
Full Report:  Click Here

Nothing in life can replace genuine community

The United States has a teen depression problem. And it’s only getting worse.

That assessment is based off a new study from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released in April. It found that 44% of teens “experienced persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness” in the most recent 12-month period. What’s more, 20% of teens “had seriously considered attempting suicide” and 9% “had attempted suicide.”

What’s truly eye-opening is when you compare these statistics with the reported mental health status of teens a decade ago. In 2009, for example, just 26% of teens reported having consistent feelings of sadness and despair. That means in roughly the last decade, the rate of teens who feel this way has nearly doubled. Rates of teens attempting suicide (from 14% to 19%) or committing suicide (6% to 9%) also increased during that period.

The COVID-19 pandemic has only worsened the problem, as teens have been more isolated than ever. The CDC survey was of 7,700 teens conducted in the first six months of 2021, when the young people were still mired in the worst of the pandemic school shutdowns and social isolation.

“These data echo a cry for help,” said CDC acting principal deputy director Debra Houry in a statement. “The COVID-19 pandemic has created traumatic stressors that have the potential to further erode students’ mental wellbeing.”

Importantly, the CDC report found that school connectedness was a key barometer of how well teens fared mentally. “Youth who felt connected to adults and peers at school were significantly less likely than those who did not to report persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness,” the study concluded.

What’s interesting about this anecdote from the CDC report is the emphasis on community and positive social relationships in maintaining good mental health. Today’s teens tend to be more isolated than their peers of past decades, more reliant on social media and smartphones to create a type of “pseudo community.”

As a recent article in The Atlantic points out, “Compared with their counterparts in the 2000s, today’s teens are less likely to go out with their friends, get their driver’s license, or play youth sports.”

It goes without saying that the pandemic only worsened these problems. What’s more, our nation’s public discourse has continued to deteriorate and today has never been more toxic, in large part fed by a culture drenched in social media.

The Success Sequence provides an outline of how to reverse the cycle of poverty in our communities. GCO uses this as a framework for much of our work.

Again to quote The Atlantic, “Outwardly, teens are growing up slower; but online, they’re growing up faster. The internet exposes teenagers not only to supportive friendships but also to bullying, threats, despairing conversations about mental health, and a slurry of unsolvable global problems—a carnival of negativity. Social media places in every teen’s pocket a quantified battle royal for scarce popularity that can displace hours of sleep and makes many teens, especially girls, feel worse about their body and life. Amplify these existing trends with a global pandemic and an unprecedented period of social isolation, and suddenly, the remarkable rise of teenage sadness doesn’t feel all that mysterious, does it?”

Solutions to this problem are not easy, but we know from our work at the Georgia Center for Opportunity (GCO) that nothing in life can replace genuine community. That community ranges from a good school to a healthy family life to thriving relationships to meaningful work. Teenagers need this just as much as adults — perhaps even more so as they pass through these key years of development.

One of GCO’s priorities is to offer relationship enrichment classes in local communities and schools. That includes students in middle and high school. Joyce Mayberry, vice president of GCO’s family team, “Teaching young people the dynamics of healthy relationships is so important, now more than ever. We’re seeing the devastating results of a loss of meaningful relationships, but it’s not too late to reverse course. All it takes is a direct investment in sharing the tools and approaches that work with young people.”

The bottom line is this: A key way to combat this epidemic of teen depression and poor mental health is through real community, where teens experience relationships face-to-face with friends, family, and broader society. That’s also one of the best ways to break the social media addiction — substituting real relationships for fake ones in a virtual world. Ultimately, it all loops back to community.

Randy Hicks on taking a bottom-up strategy to state policy reform | Overton Window Podcast

Randy Hicks on taking a bottom-up strategy to state policy reform | Overton Window Podcast

Randy Hicks on taking a bottom-up strategy to state policy reform | Overton Window Podcast

GCO’s CEO, Randy Hicks speaks with fellow think tank podcast, The Overton Window

Below is an excerpt from the Mackinac Center in Michigan. The Mackinac Center recently invited GCO’s CEO, Randy Hicks to discuss GCO’s take on State Policy Reform on their regular podcast,  The Overton Window.

Like many public policy advocates, the people at the Georgia Center for Opportunity research and write about public policy. What makes them different is that they try to bridge the gap between people working at the community level and the people working on state policy. I spoke with their president and CEO Randy Hicks about this for the Overton Window podcast.

 

“One of the things that sets us apart is that we actually spend a lot of time in the community working on those who we believe could be or are most affected by various public policies that we’re interested in,” Hicks says.

The dynamics between working on state policy and working at the community level are different, and state politics is not very conducive to collaboration.

 

Building Resilient Communities so All Children can Thrive

Building Resilient Communities so All Children can Thrive

In The News

Building Resilient Communities so All Children can Thrive

More now than ever, major corporations are making an impact beyond providing great products and customer service. They are also giving back and creating more opportunities for the communities they serve. Over and above just turning on the lights, Georgia Power is helping empower families to move from surviving to thriving. Recently, Georgia Power donated $100,000 to Families First to support initiatives focused on education equity, criminal justice and economic empowerment, which are all areas of community assistance provided by the 132 year old family service organization…

To achieve equity in education, Families First invests in safe and supportive networks that stimulate learning, provide access to community programs, and prepare youth for high-paying jobs. Taking a two-generation approach through its Navigator Care Model, there is a focus on creating stability for children with an emphasis on reading at grade level and graduating from high school. The Parents as Teachers program offers in-home parenting education, advocacy, and skill building support to both pregnant and parenting teens, as well as families from households where English is not the primary language. These educational efforts are furthered through a myriad of partnerships in metro Atlanta such as Raising Expectations in Atlanta; the Georgia Center for Opportunity and Impact46 in Gwinnett County.