Learn more about our programOur Story
Washington County, Maine.
Where We Work
Washington County, Maine, is a vast county, almost the size of the state of Connecticut, and is home to 32,000 people, including 3,600 members of the Passamaquoddy Tribe. For generations, natural resources have comprised a large portion of economic activity in the county. Blueberries play a major role; nearly 85% of the world’s supply of wild blueberries comes from Washington County and the lobster industry accounts for a significant part of the economy.
As opportunities to earn a family-sustaining wage in natural resource fields have decreased, there have been increasing opportunities for health occupations – jobs that require additional training beyond a high school diploma. While our county has one of the highest HS graduation rates in the state, we have one of the lowest post-secondary educational attainment rates in Maine. Child poverty is nearly 30% and Washington County has the lowest number of children enrolled in public preschool. This, combined with the decline in workforce participation, presents a challenge for the long-range economic future of Washington County families.
Opportunities for children and Adults
The 2 Gen Approach
2 Gen approaches focus equally and intentionally on services and opportunities for the child and the adults in their lives. The voices of families – their perspectives, dreams, and experiences – are vital to informing FFD’s 2 Gen practices and policies. Family Futures Downeast utilizes a two-generation design – parents are enrolled in college at the same time their children enroll in a high-quality early education program. This whole family approach combines post-secondary education and employment pathways while addressing the needs of both children and adults. Because of our 2 Gen strategies, parents improve their economic circumstances and position their children to succeed in school with the goal of creating educational success and economic stability for the family.
Listening & Responding to Families
Through visioning meetings held in Washington County, community leaders heard parents express the aspirations they had for themselves and their families. Over and over, parents said they wanted to be able to pay their bills on time, get great parenting information, decrease involvement with child welfare, go to college and enter career fields, and end the cycles of poverty in their families.
Parents also described the barriers – logistical, emotional and systemic, that they faced in order to reach these goals.
- Lack of Money
- Extremely limited access to safe, quality, affordable child care
- Transportation barriers
- Technology barriers
- Few or no people believed in them
- Few role models
- Stress & Self Doubt
- Loss of hope
- Lost trust
- Already navigating so many systems
- Paperwork proving eligibility is overwhelming
- Disincentives to work
- Judgement and shame
Academic and social services professionals collaboratively created the opportunity parents had envisioned – a program that combined post-secondary education, workforce training and career pathway opportunities, high-quality early care and education, wrapped around with whole-family supports and services to remove the barriers. The FFD model – a meaningful family and life skills curriculum that earns college credits, a cohort model to provide peer support, trusted coaching relationships with professional staff, access to early education to promote school readiness, and a dedicated space on campus that is child-friendly – was the response.
Parent’s voice continues to guide the program. Feedback is welcomed, encouraged, and sought after for ongoing quality improvement. Each year, the FFD Advisory Board invites two parents from the current cohort to serve as equal, voting members, along with the leaders from the seven partner organizations.
Committees on policy, academic supports and program data & evaluation also have parent representation, and their input helps guide changes in the operations of the program. Each year, the FFD program evaluator surveys and speaks to groups of participants to gauge the challenges and successes of the program, and their feedback guides changes in approaches and strategies. The collaborative is quick to respond to the needs of parents – whether it relates to removing barriers, program service delivery, or course scheduling and design.
FFD alumni gather with the FFD staff to review program changes and documents, and to serve as FFD ambassadors in the recruitment of future Cohorts.
Working together to create opportunities
FFD was designed collaboratively by Washington County academic, social service, and workforce professionals, with substantial and essential input from potential participants. The collaboration began by acknowledging the profound challenges participants would need to overcome in order to succeed in a post-secondary program and to improve economic stability for families and their children. FFD parents may come with a legacy of generational poverty, trauma, exposure to violence, substance abuse and profound loss of hope by those experiences.
Collaborative partners recognized that no one organization or agency had the expertise or resources to deliver all the services that families would need. By developing a Memorandum of Understanding signed by all of the partners, FFD designed a framework of program activities and approaches and guided by the understanding that poverty is the cause of multiple barriers to enrollment and success in college and that basic needs must be met in order to focus on learning.
The program activities intentionally align high-quality programming for children with services and educational opportunities for parents in a whole family framework. The activities and approaches include:
- Academic remediation, college preparatory classes, and tutoring supports throughout the post-secondary programming
- Workforce development instruction and career programming that also supports academic preparedness
- Using a Cohort approach on each campus in a program of 5 college courses in Family Life Skills as a foundation for future academic pursuits
- High quality, early-education programming for FFD children on campus-located centers while parents are in class
- A family meal is provided prior to class
- Coaches who build on strengths and address needs using wraparound approaches to support goals
- Resolving parent barriers, including the use of flexible funds when needed.
The partnership is governed by an Advisory Board of leaders representing the six agencies and institutions, as well as two parent participants who are also voting members.
Partners for Sustainability
Family Futures Downeast is extremely pleased to recognize as our Sustainability Partners those contributors who, through their multi-year and/or significant general operating support, have invested in Washington County’s two-generation efforts.
State of Maine
Department of Health and Human Services
FFD is supported by a contract with the State of Maine, Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Family Independence, who provide 55% of the program funding.
Machias Savings Bank
Machias Savings Bank shares the belief that strengthening and supporting the organizations that contribute to the economic and social well-being is good for the communities we serve. The Bank is committed to the support of non-profit organizations and activities that advance community development and improve the quality of life in our communities.
John T. Gorman Foundation
The John T. Gorman Foundation advances ideas and opportunities that can improve the lives of disadvantaged people in Maine.
Elmina B. Sewall Foundation
The Elmina B. Sewall Foundation supports work in Maine to improve the well-being of people, animals and the environment while fostering relationships that strive for social equity and community resilience.
The Annie E. Casey Foundation
The Annie E. Casey Foundation is devoted to developing a brighter future for millions of children at risk of poor educational, economic, social and health outcomes.
Maine Community Foundation
The Maine Community Foundation, founded in 1983, works with donors and other partners to improve the quality of life for all Maine people. The community foundation is committed to serve all of Maine; demonstrate respect for people and places; achieve quality and integrity in everything we do and remain nonpartisan. MaineCF is committed to equality, diversity, and inclusion, and ensuring Maine is a safe, welcoming, and accepting place for everyone.
Students continue in college
Children showed growth in language & literacy
Students are working while attending classes
Individuals have been impacted by FFD
Get In Touch
Machias Location: 7 Ames Way, Machias, ME 04654
Calais Location: 300 North Street, Suite 1, Calais, ME 04619
Telephone: (207) 255-0983
Hours: M-F: 8am - 5pm