Partners for Appalachian Families, formerly known as the The Knox County Rural IMPACT team, found itself in the company of Tom Vilsack the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Doug O’Brien Senior Policy Advisor 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, as the PAF “away” team met in Washington D.C. for the second training and reporting session of its type.
Away team members include: Kelli Moore, Executive Director Partners for Education at Berea; Melissa Newman, EKU Regional Stewardship Coordinator; Alicia Hill, Workforce Services Assistant Director / Career Advisor, KCEOC Community Action Partnership, PAF team support VISTAs Ashley Van Hook and Seth Wilder.
Knox County, along with only nine other communities across the United States, was chosen in 2015 as a Rural IMPACT (Rural Integration Models for Parents and Children to Thrive) demonstration site. The sites are working to invest resources in the community 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 worked to align services and support provided by local agencies to parenting youth age 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, which has transformed into a tight-knit group, 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” which included real examples of how the members have asked government bureaucracy to peel back some of its red tape to help families succeed. The ten teams shared progress reports and identified problems that were critical to the demonstration sites’ successes, noting solutions that would be implemented before summer 2017.
O’Brien took note of the teams’ efforts in making the world a better place by helping to eliminate poverty and struggling families. The Senior Policy Advisor for Rural Affairs was overcome by emotions, so much so that he made a quick-quip about only crying when he gets emotional about important things, to which his he said, “that’s all the time.”
The Partners for Appalachian Families team is inching toward a framework for aligning services that will point those seeking public services into workforce, workforce training or higher education, with all roads leading into a better future for parents and children as they move along together. Plans for a Scholar House at Eastern Kentucky University’s South Region Corbin 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 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.