Representatives of Partners for Appalachian Families (PAF), formerly known as the Knox County Rural IMPACT team, found themselves in the company of some leading national officials recently.
The group met in Washington, D.C., with Tom Vilsack, secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture; Doug O’Brien, senior policy adviser for rural affairs; the White House Domestic Policy Council; and researchers and policy makers from the Aspen Institute, an international nonprofit dedicated to fostering open-minded dialogue.
The PAF “away team” members included: Melissa Newman, regional stewardship coordinator for Eastern Kentucky University; Alicia Hill, workforce services assistant director/career adviser, KCEOC Community Action Partnership; Kelli Moore, executive director, Partners for Education at Berea; and PAF VISTAs Ashley Van Hook and Seth Wilder.
Knox County, along with only nine other communities across the United States, was selected in 2015 as a Rural IMPACT (Rural Integration Models for Parents and Children to Thrive) demonstration site. The sites are working to invest resources that address the challenges of rural childhood poverty, using a two-generation approach.
Since the designation was granted, the Partners for Appalachian Families team has workedto align services and support provided by local agencies to parenting youth ages 14-24 and their children. The PAF team continues to work to remove government barriers and unite sharing of information between agencies to create a model that uncomplicates a family’s path to success. The team seeks to find gaps as well as overlaps in education, transportation, childcare, social services, financial counseling and family counseling services.
As a model for finding solutions to even the most complicated scenarios, the Partners for Appalachian Families “away team” led a “deep dive” session on “barrier busting” that included real examples of how the members have asked government bureaucracy to peel back red tape to help families succeed. The 10 teams shared progress reports and identified problems that were critical to the demonstration sites’ success, noting solutions that would be implemented before next summer.
The Partners for Appalachian Families team is inching toward a framework for aligning services that will point those seeking public services into the workforce, workforce training or higher education, with all roads leading to a better future for parents and children. Plans for a Scholar House at EKU’s South Region Corbin Campus have been ongoing since the Rural IMPACT site designation was granted. A Scholar House is a housing and education initiative that enables the head of household to reach self-sufficiency. Scholar House residents receive counseling, workshops and other means of support while fulfilling academic or vocational training coursework as full-time students. The proposed Scholar House will include an on-site child care facility to allow time for the parents to attend classes and focus on their education.
The Rural IMPACT demonstration project is administered by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services with support from the Community Action Partnership and the American Academy of Pediatrics and implemented in collaboration with Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC); the U.S. Departments of Agriculture, Education, and Labor; the Delta Regional Authority; and the Corporation for National and Community Service.