This announcement solicits applications for the Strengthening Working Families Initiative (SWFI) grant program.
On June 23, 2014, President Obama convened the White House Summit on Working Families, which was jointly hosted by the Department of Labor, Center for American Progress and the White
House Council on Women and Girls.
During the Summit, participants (including businesses, economists, labor leaders, legislators, advocates, the media and ordinary citizens) discussed issues that working families face.
The Summit was the beginning of a larger conversation about the changes necessary in society, business policies, and in our laws to ensure that all Americans have the opportunity to have a job and a family.
Working parents, particularly those with low incomes and low skills, face significant barriers to employment.
Six out of ten households with children have all parents working (married working or single working parents), increasing the need for affordable and quality child care.
With more parents working, greater access to affordable, high-quality child care is needed but is difficult to find due to steadily increasing child care costs and relatively stagnant funding to cover the costs of child care.
Even where affordable child care exists, parents have to deal with unpredictable situations where child care may be unavailable, such as when their child is sick, the child care provider is closed, they are attending professional development sessions, and other emergencies that may result in parents needing alternative solutions.
Additionally, an increasing number of families have employers who shift the family member’s work schedule with minimal notice, making stable child care harder to find.
It can be difficult to handle these unexpected situations, particularly for low-wage workers who cannot afford to take unpaid leave and are less likely to have flexibility in the workplace.
While training and education can help move parents into better paying jobs, some of the barriers to employment also serve as barriers to training and education.
The lack of access to affordable and consistent child care can keep parents from attending training and educational programs.
Of the 21 million low-income parents, only 1 in 10 participates in education and training.
For those low-income parents participating in education and training, almost half were working at the same time, resulting in the additional burden of arranging for and paying the cost of child care while at work, while in training, and while commuting.
As education and earnings are strongly linked, this FOA supports providing access to education and training to help move parents along a career pathway that will lead to better paying jobs.
This FOA also encourages applicants to develop an approach that provides skills training leading to family-supporting jobs for low- to middle-skilled parents while simultaneously developing and implementing a plan for the applicant’s community or region that helps families better navigate the existing complex systems of supportive services, including increased access to child care.
To help meet these objectives, the Department is interested in supporting evidence-based strategies or innovations based on these models that remove a range of barriers to training, including child care and other needs that working families face, by investing in education and skills training in combination with customized participant supportive services.
Of particular interest are new promising ideas developed through human centered design methodology and behavioral insight research.
Program strategies must include moving lower- to middle-skilled individuals into middle- to high-skilled jobs, with the goals of increasing family-supporting wages and enabling the success of the parent.
In particular, the Department is interested in supporting parents – defined as custodial parent, legal guardian, foster parent, or other person standing in loco parentis – who face a barrier to training, including child care and other participant supportive service needs, and are in need of increasing skills and competencies that will either prepare them for entry into an H-1B-aligned career pathway or advancement along an H-1B-aligned career pathway and into middle- or high-skilled jobs.
Through this FOA, the Department aims to address education and training barriers for low- to middle-skilled parents by prioritizing the needs of this targeted population; addressing child care needs for parents seeking education and training; increasing access to child care resources; and bridging the gap between the workforce development and child care systems.
As applicants design their training strategies to meet the needs of working parents, they should consider the delivery methods and scheduling of training as important factors in providing the flexibility that working parents may require for participation in training.
This may include adjusting curriculum design to provide flexible course offerings, expanding asynchronous learning options, or providing online courses.
It could also include delivering training through banded schedules to enable parents to accommodate their work schedules and make it easier for working parents to make child care arrangements.
Another possibility is the inclusion of training onsite at the workplace, particularly if child care is provided in the same location.
An important element of this FOA is the need for communities to address how local areas will help parents navigate complex systems and access the child care services they need.
The SWFI grants will provide the platform for strengthening partnerships between systems (workforce training providers and child care providers) to ensure consistency in care and flexibility in services.
To support these efforts, applicants are required to leverage cash or in-kind resources amounting to at least 25 percent of the total award.