The Women’s Foundation of Southern Arizona is one of four recipients of a national award supporting “two-generation” solutions to poverty that focus not only on struggling parents, but their children as well.

The $150,000 award from the Women’s Funding Network and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation will go toward the creation of public-private partnerships to bolster workforce development and career opportunities for low-income women, as well as access to quality child care and early childhood education.

“We’re so excited to be leveraging these tremendous resources to help bring a bold approach,” said Dawne Bell, CEO of the Women’s Foundation of Southern Arizona, which aims to improve the lives of women and girls through advocacy, research and grant-making. “It’s really about breaking down silos. ... This is about creating a connection between child-care systems and workforce systems.”

Over three years, the Women’s Foundation will use the award to collaborate with direct-service providers and other partners to tackle intergenerational poverty in a holistic way, Bell said. The group will research what’s working, and not working, for families in the current system and talk to employers about what career skills will be in demand in the coming years, she said.

The other winners are the Dallas Women’s Foundation, the Women’s Foundation of Colorado and the Women’s Foundation of Greater Birmingham. About 130 women’s foundations across the country are part of the Women’s Funding Network, a national philanthropic network devoted to women and girls.

The award winners were chosen “based on their proven ability to advocate for fairer, smarter practices that support women and their families,” Women’s Funding Network President and CEO Cynthia Nimmo said in a news release.

Arizona’s poverty rate has increased by 37 percent since 2007, even as poverty rates are declining nationally, said a 2017 report from the Women’s Foundation of Southern Arizona. Nearly 80 percent of single-parent households below the poverty level are headed by women.

“Women’s foundations are really poised to be at the forefront of the two-generation approach,” Bell said. “Our whole vision is: When women thrive, our community prospers.”

Amanda Abens, dean of workforce development and continuing education at Pima Community College, said she can relate to challenges facing single mothers trying to make it on minimum wage.

She became a single mom when her son was 1 year old, and she couldn’t get a job that paid more than minimum wage.

She went back to school at Pima the following year and eventually earned a master’s degree at the University of Arizona.

“I know first-hand all of those challenges of trying to find day care, trying to pay for day care and trying to balance all of that,” she said. “We recognize that we have a large non-traditional population at Pima and that we have many parents having to balance those things.”

The cost of a licensed child-care center for one young child is $820 per month, which is two-thirds of the monthly income for a single mother of one child living at the federal poverty level, according to Women’s Foundation research.

Arizona’s Legislature has cut programs and subsidies that help low-income families, including cash assistance and funding for subsidies that help pay for child care. Today, there are more than 4,300 children on the waiting list for child-care subsidies through the Arizona Department of Economic Security, said DES spokesman Brett Bezio.

Pima Community College will soon be implementing “block scheduling,” consolidating class schedules so that parents don’t have to spend more time than necessary on campus, Abens said.

She said she’s excited to see what partnerships and strategies come out of the Women’s Foundation’s award.

“When we talk about making (improvements) in generational poverty, approaching it from a two-generation perspective is imperative,” she said. “Being able to have the resources to learn what it is and to learn strategies to implement it, we will all be better off and our economy will be better off.”

Contact reporter Emily Bregel at or 573-4233. On Twitter: @EmilyBregel