A Field Guide: Connecting Children & Families to Resources

In today’s America, more than half of public school students qualify for free or reduced lunch and child poverty is higher here than in many other wealthy nations. Faced with children who go without meals, miss school due to untreated asthma, cope with trauma, or must figure out where they will sleep at night because they are homeless, there has been a groundswell of response.

As Joan Wasser-Gish, Director of Strategic Initiatives at the Center, explained in an Op-ed published in Commonwealth Magazine, scientists know that the impact of poverty “can also undermine a child’s ability to pay attention, regulate emotions and behaviors, and organize and remember information – the very things required for academic learning, holding a job, and contributing to our shared prosperity.”

Across the country, cities, towns, schools, health centers, non-profits, programs, and philanthropic organizations are taking action. They are redesigning and aligning delivery systems to improve access by children and families to resources such as food, clothing, books, school supplies, early education, parenting support, housing, job training, after school programs, summer opportunities, internships, and more.

The frequent disconnect between children in need and important resources perpetuates results that are costly—in both human and monetary terms. It also reinforces familiar patterns: persistent achievement and opportunity gaps, inequality, low social mobility, reliance on public assistance, incarceration, and lost potential. There is urgency to learning about the ways local communities are addressing implementation challenges, and the strategies that are making a difference.

With that in mind, the Center for Optimized Student Support released a “Field Guide: Connecting Children & Families to Resources.” This guide is intended to give practitioners, policy makers, and researchers an overview of the approaches in use across the country that aim to improve access by children and families to the resources needed to support healthy child development and learning. It also provides organizational frameworks that serve as gateways to understanding and making relevant existing work in communities across the country.

“Too often, local communities are reinventing the wheels as they seek to address common challenges,” explained Wasser-Gish. “This begins the process of identifying organizations and communities they can really learn from – others who have already developed a way to serve a similar population in a similar setting. We hope that practitioners will see this as a useful starting point.”


About the Center For Optimized Student Support (Boston College)

The Center for Optimized Student Support, hosted by the Lynch School of Education at Boston College, studies and shares the most effective ways to address the out-of-school factors impacting student learning and thriving in schools, and to support practitioners in implementing evidence-driven integration of school and community resources. It houses the innovative City Connects intervention, a research-practice partnership implementing integrated student support in 100 schools nationwide. The Center uses research in developmental sciences, knowledge emerging from City Connects, and discoveries from around the country to make more effective and efficient use of school and community resources possible.