Catholic Charities seeks out the places throughout Eastern Washington where people have little or no hope. Over the past several years, we have been increasingly working to bring hope to people in one particular situation: families who find themselves trapped by poverty generation after generation.
In our community, we find that children who grow up in poverty are more likely to become adults who live in poverty. In these families, grandparents do not see their children or grandchildren live better lives than they did. In public health, this phenomenon is known as intergenerational poverty, and its effects are significant and long-lasting.
If you have been following The Spokesman-Review, the Inlander or the Fig Tree over the last year, you may have heard about a brand-new program at Catholic Charities called Rising Strong that is designed to help families who are experiencing intergenerational poverty build brighter futures.
Rising Strong offers the court system a place to refer families to receive treatment for substance use disorders rather than sending parents to prison and their children to foster care.
Rising Strong allows families to stay together while they begin to recover from addiction, heal from trauma and rebuild their lives. Rising Strong provides housing and wraparound treatment for families struggling with addiction. Last month, the first cohort of families graduated from Rising Strong. We thought this was a great opportunity to share why and how the program works and what went into creating it.
Rising Strong Demonstrates Early Success
The pilot phase of Rising Strong showed a great deal of promise for the program. In January, the first cohort of Rising Strong participants graduated, including eight parents and 17 children. For Rising Strong parents to graduate, they must be well established in their recovery and have earned a GED or high school diploma, secured employment or other income, and strengthened their parenting skills.
The graduates now live independently, including some at The Sisters Haven, where they will continue supporting each other in their recoveries. The parents will offer peer support to the next Rising Strong cohort arriving in March.
During the graduation ceremony, several parents gave speeches in which they reflected on the role their children and families play in their recovery.
“This has been a lifesaving blessing in my life,” said one graduate. “My kids are the reason I keep trying, the reason for everything I do.”
“You have to knock down obstacles together,” said another.
Rising Strong is Built on Community Partnerships
Catholic Charities knows that helping families heal from addiction and trauma is a community problem that demands community solutions. Our work is made possible by the unique contributions from community partners and grantmakers and the trailblazing work of other cutting-edge programs.
Catholic Charities has partnered closely with the Empire Health Foundation to develop and operate Rising Strong. Empire Health has helped implement the Rising Strong model based on the success of two similar programs. The Exodus program in Los Angeles County and the On Track program in Medford, Ore. used similar models that resulted in 80–90 percent success rates for their clients. Empire Health has blogged about its collaboration with Catholic Charities and the process that went into designing it.
While parents receive treatment for substance use disorders, children need help healing from the trauma they experienced as a result of separation. Excelsior Youth Services provides on-site therapy and mental health services that support every aspect of children’s wellness.
To see how well Rising Strong performs, Washington State University is conducting an evaluation of the program’s effectiveness. Other collaborators include the Children’s Administration, Child Protective Services, the Office of the Public Defender and the attorney general.
Rising Strong Provides Solutions that Help Parents Heal and Families Stay Strong Together
Rising Strong provides a pipeline of services that help all graduates become strong members of the Spokane community. Rising Strong guarantees housing for parents who work hard to heal themselves and their families. On-site services include behavioral health treatment, support from staff who have experienced addiction and recovery, medical services, court advocacy, education, child care, vocational training and placement for parents, and a range of other rigorously tested programs for the entire family.
When Families Stay Together, They Heal Better and Grow Stronger
Rising Strong focuses on parents and children, providing each generation the support it needs to be part of a healthy family. This multigenerational approach is the first step to giving children the bright future they deserve and their parents want them to have. Parents prepare for work and family life, getting the support, skills and credentials they need to provide a stable, loving home. Children prepare for the future, getting the love, stability and education they need to dream.