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The Power of Supporting Working Families for an Equitable Economy

"Supporting families supports the economy. It helps to fill jobs today and it helps to prepare children for the workplace of tomorrow.” (source)

Family of three smiles for a picture.

We’ve written before about why family-supportive innovations and policies matter when it comes to building an equitable, robust economy. These practices decrease rates of child poverty, increase women’s short- and long-term labor for participation, and support Black mothers’ economic security. Additionally, inclusive workplaces that offer “special and unique” benefits for families are twice as likely to retain parents

But practically speaking, how can civic leaders activate the unique supports needed for families in their communities?

Start with understanding the families who make up your community.

Every community’s makeup is unique. Start by asking questions and collecting data to better understand what families look like in your community, where they live, and their unique needs.

Then ask about the programs, policies, and players already in place to support working families.

There’s no need to recreate the wheel - in many communities, local leaders and coalitions have been hard at work on these policies and programs for years. Work to gain an understanding of what services are already in place and how they’re being utilized - and even where programs and policies have been tried before but not been successful. 

Then, identify and engage with key partners. Talk to working families themselves to better understand what they need and want. Talk to the advocates, consortiums, and policymakers who are already working on these supports. Ask thoughtful questions and listen closely to these experts.

Finally, consider the presence of other influential champions for this work, who may be considered “non-traditional” in this space. What is the business community’s appetite for this work? Are there particular businesses that are championing working family supports?

All of these voices will help ground the data and assumptions in lived experience.

Next, develop community-specific strategies to advance equitable development.

Certain policy levers can positively impact working families’ economic security.

And beyond “big ‘p’ policy,” communities can and do deploy various local and regional initiatives across public and private sectors, like Kentucky’s Employe Child Care Assistance Program, North Dakota’s Working Parents Child Care Relief, and Returnship Programs to help working parents re-enter the workforce seamlessly.

Families make our communities vibrant, connected places. Equitable community planning in service of those families will support a healthy, just economy.


Learn more! Our Equitable Community Planning Toolkit offers a framework, tools, and a step-by-step approach for advancing equitable planning and community building through the use of indicators and community engagement. For more tips and examples of implementing working family supports, download the toolkit today!


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