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SALT LAKE CITY — More than 50,000 Utah kids live in poverty, with another quarter million at risk of remaining in poverty as adults.
So the state is taking a new approach to try to break that intergenerational cycle and give struggling families new hope.
The program is called Next Generation Kids. The idea is to disrupt the cycle of poverty by working with the parents and kids together. It's a chance to change lives and foster new hope.
It's a two-year pilot program, and two more groups are starting up this spring in Salt Lake County. It’s a new approach to a persistent problem, bringing new hope.
Mellowdey Trueblood and her 6-year-old son Zen cook pizza in a new kind of class.
"This class is about creating and using your imagination, and my son has plenty of that,” Trueblood said.
One of the lessons taught is how to prepare nutritious food on a budget.
"I want more for my son,” Trueblood said. “I want better than what we've got and what we've been dealt."
That's why she's grateful for this program. Her family struggled when she was growing up.
"I was born into it," she said.
We're looking and focusing on the whole family to make sure that everyone's needs are being met and we are able to stabilize the families.
–Libby Shelton, Department of Workforce Services
The pilot program is a new part of the Intergenerational Poverty Mitigation Act passed by the Utah Legislature three years ago.
"We're looking and focusing on the whole family to make sure that everyone's needs are being met and we are able to stabilize the families," said Libby Shelton, a family success coach with the Department of Workforce Services.
Workforce Services now tracks families in our communities that are at risk of remaining in poverty. Next Generation Kids works with those families to create stability, "To give them some hope, vision about the future,” Shelton said.
The focus is on four key areas: early childhood development, education, economic stability and health.
Other classes will cover finances and other life skills.
"As far as what we're doing here, I believe we are breaking new ground,” Shelton said.
After several months in the program, Trueblood believes she's breaking new ground, too.
"Every time I'm interacting with my son, I see the reflection of the changes I'm making,” she said. “I see that in my son."