The State of Georgia faces some of the nation’s most difficult challenges associated with poverty. According to 2019 KidsCount data, when compared to the country, Georgia’s children and youth are lagging far behind on critical indicators. For example, more teens are not in school and not working, fewer high school students graduate on time, substantially more babies are low birth-weight, and more teenage girls get pregnant annually.
Georgia’s Family Connection Movement
One of the ways Georgia has sought to enhance outcomes for children and families is through a statewide collective impact project called Family Connection. Overseen by the Georgia Family Connection Partnership, the statewide Family Connection model was established in 1995 with a vision to help build a Georgia:
- Where all children are healthy, primed for school, and succeed when they get there
- Where families are stable, self-sufficient, and productive
- Where communities are vibrant, robust, and thriving
The Georgia Family Connection Partnership supports Family Connection’s vision by serving as the backbone organization for a network of county-wide collaboratives. In this role, they provide a wide array of technical assistance and training services. Family Connection collaboratives are now functioning in all of Georgia’s 159 counties. They are widely representative of local groups committed to improving education, health, child welfare, and economic outcomes for children and families.
Providing Evaluation Technical Support
Metis was selected by the Partnership to support the evaluation of this multi-year initiative – a consultative role that Metis has played continuously since 1995. Metis serves as a thought partner to the Partnership, provides evaluation-related technical assistance to local collaboratives, and participates in several ongoing research/evaluation studies designed to test Family Connection’s theory of change. Over the years, Metis and colleagues from the extended evaluation team have been able to isolate a number of positive outcomes significantly associated with project implementation. For example, analyses have shown that improvements in teen pregnancy, high school graduation, and child abuse and neglect rates significantly correlate with collaborative efforts.
In 2000, shortly after Metis joined the statewide evaluation, Georgia was ranked 49th out of 50 states on measures of child well-being, as documented in the annual KidsCount Data Book. By comparison, the latest edition shows that Georgia has attained the rank of 38th. This remarkable 11-rank improvement cannot be entirely attributed to the Family Connection collective impact initiative. However, there is little doubt that the data provided by Metis and our colleagues to inform and enhance statewide practices and policies has contributed to this result.