A unique multi-generation learning program aimed at improving the lives of vulnerable families is spreading across Mississippi and should reach all 82 counties by January 2018.
The goal: to elevate families out of poverty by empowering parents with the skills and confidence to improve their life situations. Learning is extended beyond school walls and into daily routines, such as a trip to the store, time at the dinner table, or just time alone between parent and child.
The approach is known as Gen+ by the Mississippi Department of Human Services (DHS), and is incorporated into a program called Families First for Mississippi. The services are being provided by the Family Resource Center of North Mississippi and the Mississippi Community Education Center. A particularly satisfying aspect for the Family Resource Center is that we have been partnering with the National Center for Families Learning (NCFL) to provide services to two generations of family members under Toyota’s Family Learning initiative for over a year. Gen+ and the NCFL/ Toyota approach are identical in the focus on more than just an individual family member but the family as a whole.
In the past, social service agencies like ours saw that clients were becoming dependent on the system rather than gaining independence. Now, we are focusing on the entire family with the intent to change not only the individual, but, also, the culture of the family.
Components of the NCFL/ Toyota two-generation model of services include Family Service Learning projects, Parent and Child Together (PACT) Time®, and family-to-family mentoring. Families are empowered to learn about and address important social issues in their communities such as safety and security, environmental stewardship, financial literacy, effective education systems, transportation, and health. Through Families First for Mississippi and DHS’ Gen+ approach, we will also be providing free classes for literacy, parenting, life skills, workforce development and education services for the whole family based upon each family member’s need and desire for success.
All services are free to participants who will be assessed to determine needs, and there is no wait time – families can begin immediately.
Recently, 100 Families First for Mississippi staff came together for a three-day training session conducted by the highly respected National Center for Families Learning. NCFL and Toyota have a long track record together, bringing this successful approach to over 2 million families across the U.S since 1989.
We have seen great results from the multi-generational approach. One of those success stories is Kim, a 32-year old single mother whose 6-year old daughter has a hearing impairment and Addison’s disease. Before enrolling in the two-generation program, Kim became very frustrated with her daughter’s behavior in school and at home. She credits NCFL Family Learning for teaching her the skills she needed to help her child with homework, encourage positive behavior and to build a positive relationship.
“I’ve learned how to better work with my daughter on homework and reading,” Kim said. “She’s gone from struggling to now improving her reading scores and having better behavior in school.”
Meantime, Kim, who was receiving government assistance due to a job loss, is now living independently and working full time as an administrative secretary at a mental health center. She is also pursuing a degree in office administration.
In addition to gaining skills to help their children succeed in and outside the classroom, parents also are instructed in the areas of technology, English language, self-efficacy, interpersonal communications, problem-solving, and time management. These employability skills prove extremely valuable as they look to either join the workforce or go after a better job.
Finally, children participating with their parents in Family Service Learning will see the application of their education firsthand on their own pathway to success. Also, they are more likely to grow up and serve their own communities by following their parents’ example. This approach to Family Service Learning empowers families to become a part of the solution to their own communities’ problems.
I feel very strongly that this program will reap great rewards – it will help pull families out of poverty. However, for it to work and grow, we will need the support of not only DHS, Families First and NCFL, but, also, other non-profit groups, volunteers, government leadership and ordinary Mississippians who want to see their fellow citizens succeed. Anyone interested in learning more about this program, please call us at 662-844-0013 or visit us at FamiliesFirstforMS.org.
Christi Webb is executive director of the Family Resource Center of North Mississippi, a chapter of Families First for Mississippi.
Roy Moore is the Steve Bannon project in a nutshell.
For the former Trump operative, the Alabama Senate candidate's tattered credibility is a feature, not a bug. If Moore had well-considered political and legal views, good judgment and a sterling reputation, he'd almost by definition be part of the establishment that Bannon so loathes. Since Moore has none of those things, he's nearly an ideal representative of the Bannon insurgency.
Events in Alabama make it clear that Bannon's dime-store Leninism -- burn everything down, including perhaps the Republican Senate majority -- comes at a considerable cost. In this enterprise, the truth and standards don't matter. Being anti-establishment is an escape clause from personal responsibility, and #war means proudly defending the indefensible.
It's no accident that Bannon ended up joined at the hip to the one Republican in the state of Alabama who might be capable of losing a Senate race. Bannon went out of his way to associate himself with Moore, and to make the former judge -- twice jettisoned from the state's highest court -- a poster boy for his style of politics.
Even before the latest revelations, Moore was a stereotype of a witless, conspiracy-minded Southern demagogue. At best, he was Sharron Angle -- the accidental Republican candidate who lost to Harry Reid in 2010 -- except running in what appeared to be an unlosable seat. The recent revelations of financial improprieties (Moore took an undisclosed salary from a nonprofit, despite his denials) and accusations of sexual misconduct suggest he is wholly Angle's inferior.
There are two options in terms of Bannon's role in Alabama.
If he's the Svengali he portrays himself as, he's falling down on the job. It appears Bannon didn't do thorough oppo on his own candidate, a standard professional practice, and couldn't prevail on Moore to get his story straight before talking to the media.
Then there's the option that Bannon is simply a glorified bystander in Alabama, which is consistent with the fact that Moore would have almost certainly won the primary with or without Bannon's support.
Bannon's reputation, of course, depends on his role as Donald Trump's chief strategist. The genius in the Trump operation, though, wasn't Bannon; it was Trump, whose power as a communicator, gut-level political instincts and celebrity overcame his manifest failings in a race against a Democratic opponent who proved one of the worst candidates in modern presidential history.
Donald Trump was Donald Trump long before Bannon showed up, and, sure enough, he's been Donald Trump since Bannon left the White House.
Ultimately, Bannon is a barnacle on the Trump brand, although one that can't get his story straight. Sometimes he says the Trump administration is effectively over, in which case he's implicitly saying that his erstwhile boss abandoned his voters within a year of taking office.
Bannon doesn't dare follow this thought through to its logical conclusion. Instead, he inveighs against Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
Bannon's argument that a globalist cabal has coalesced to thwart Trump's agenda in Washington is contemptible nonsense. Top congressional Republicans bite their tongues every day about Trump to keep the peace -- and try to pass his agenda.
Obamacare repeal and replace failed in the Senate, not because McConnell wasn't determined to pass it, but because three Senate Republicans went their own way despite McConnell's good-faith efforts.
If Moore were in the Senate, he'd presumably be a reliable Republican vote like any other Alabama senator. The only difference is that he hates McConnell. Is that worth the reputational risk to the party of being associated with such a compromised figure? If there is a new Republican Senate leader in the next Congress, he sure as hell isn't going to be a bomb thrower (Senate leaders never are). So what's the point?
Apparently to find an unbelievably checkered collection of Senate candidates, and to put Senate seats at risk by nominating them, no matter what their electoral appeal or vulnerabilities. Steve Bannon wants as many Roy Moores as possible.
The inexorable workings of the political marketplace seem to be enforcing some discipline over hitherto fissiparous Republican politicians. The question is whether this is happening too late to save the party's declining prospects in the 2018 midterm elections.
You can see this in Republicans' reactions to the tax bills Congress is currently considering. Last spring, when the party's congressional leadership teed up its health care bills, purportedly repealing and replacing Obamacare, they faced rebellions from practically every corner of their party's caucuses.
In the House, the Freedom Caucus trotted out one criticism after another. This is in line with standard practice, going back at least to October 2013, when Freedom Caucus types, heeding newly elected Senator Ted Cruz's calls to defund Obamacare, produced a government shutdown that sent the party, predictably, plummeting in the polls.
House Republican rebels made purist arguments, cited pledges never to vote for government expansion, called for constitutional conservatism. They chided Speakers John Boehner and Paul Ryan and Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell for insufficient boldness, seemingly forgetting that the Constitution gave President Barack Obama a veto.
Now things look different. With Republicans holding the White House and majorities in both houses of Congress, the purism that resulted in defeat of the House's first attempt at Obamacare revision, followed by the defeat of a second in the Senate, leaves Republicans double-digits behind Democrats on the generic which-party-would-you-back question.
Democrats' big victories in the Virginia and New Jersey governor races also struck a chord. These states, dominated by high-education suburbs in major metro areas, tilt more Democratic than the nation. But Republicans have been losing legislative special elections even in red-state Trump districts.
So just about all the erstwhile rebels are suddenly supporting Speaker Paul Ryan's tax bill, even though it's easy to find complex provisions to which purists could object. They've discovered that in the American political marketplace, whose rules usually limit competition to two parties, a majority party that can't perform is liable to severe punishment.
But for some -- notably former White House advisor Steve Bannon -- the point is not to win, but to oust the current Republican leadership. Just as California billionaire Tom Steyer conditions contributions on pledges to vote for impeachment, so former Goldman Sachs exec Bannon requires pledges to vote for ouster of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
That left him endorsing, apparently with no visible effect, Roy Moore in the special election Republican runoff for the Alabama Senate seat vacated by Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Moore, a dim bulb, was twice ousted from the state Supreme Court for disobeying a federal court order (banning his Ten Commandments courthouse statue) and the Supreme Court decision proclaiming a right to same-sex marriage.
His stands proved popular with many evangelical voters. But his argument, that the order and decision were wrong, shows either ignorance of the supremacy clause in Article VI of the United States Constitution or a commitment to lawlessness that is the opposite of conservatism.
But all that has been pushed to the side after last week's Washington Post story that as a 30-something lawyer, Moore had at least one sexual encounter with a 14-year-old girl and pursued four other teens; this week came charges of sexual harassment by another. Moore's quasi-denials, even to the sympathetic Sean Hannity, have been unconvincing. Polls have shown him losing ground and even trailing against a respectable Democratic candidate in a state that Donald Trump carried 62 to 34 percent.
Republican senators, including McConnell and Alabama's Richard Shelby, have responded by saying he should withdraw from the race. His name can't legally be removed from the Dec. 12 ballot, but there is speculation about a write-in campaign for Luther Strange, the appointee he beat in the runoff, or even Sessions.
Corey Gardner, head of the Senate Republicans' campaign committee, has gone father. "If he refuses to withdraw and wins, the Senate should vote to expel him." Under the Supreme Court Powell v. McCormack decision, the Senate must seat him, but could expel him by a two-thirds vote.
Contrary to claims that there is no precedent for this or that a senator can't be expelled based on conduct prior to election, a move by senators to expel Michigan Senator Truman Newberry was frustrated only when Newberry resigned in 1922.
No possible outcome looks helpful for beleaguered Republicans now. Unless, perhaps, Republican politicians -- and voters -- heed the signals in the political marketplace and reject Steve Bannon's burn-the-barn-down strategy.
Michael Barone is a senior political analyst for the Washington Examiner, resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and longtime co-author of The Almanac of American Politics.