Laying the Groundwork for Disrupting Generational Poverty: A Jeremiah Program Report

Jeremiah Program released our first report — on our introductory course for JP moms. Learn about the background and key findings.

In mid-April, we released our first report: Empowerment & Leadership: Laying the Groundwork for Disrupting Generational Poverty by Exploring Themes of Shame, Bias and a Sense of Belonging.

Empowerment & Leadership (E&L) is a course every mom takes to begin her JP journey. The course guides moms to see their own stories as powerful, connect with a supportive and restorative community, eliminate the stigma of shame, and find the space they need to reflect and reimagine their futures.

The study found that programs like JP’s Empowerment & Leadership (E&L) course are instrumental in helping single moms experiencing poverty make positive changes for themselves and their families.

Unfortunately, that stigma plays an outsized role in our society and in the lives of single moms on the financial margins.

“Poverty in America is often framed as a moral or personal failure on the part of those experiencing poverty, who are disproportionately women of color,” said JP President and CEO Chastity Lord. “The narratives of shame that permeate the lives of single moms experiencing poverty, coupled with the systemic barriers that coalesce under the feminization of poverty, and are in direct conflict with the American Dream. Disrupting generational poverty also requires that we acknowledge the power of narratives and how one-sided stories about single moms shape conversations in the media and ultimately influence bad public policy impacting generations.”

When JP commissioned a study on E&L in October 2022, we wanted to know how our moms were drawing connections between narratives of shame and their paths to economic mobility. The study, conducted from January to December 2023, targeted all participants attending E&L workshops throughout the 12 months. It demonstrated the connection between shame and moms’ understanding of their power to chart their futures.

“These sessions have helped me own my story. I am strong. I am more than just a mom. I have goals and I can reach them.”

E&L mom

“E&L was very beneficial to me figuring out who I am, what shaped me in life, what I need to do to focus on my goals,” one mom said. “It really shed light on my whole life experience, from where I was to where I am now, how far I’ve come, and to be proud of the person that I am.”

That new-found sense of control was prevalent in moms’ comments about what they gained from E&L. “The pieces gave me a better sense of myself and allowed me to see how I have the power over my own life,” said one mom. “All I have to do is claim control of my life.” Another spoke very pointedly about the future: “The future looks promising. I can’t wait to maybe one day own my own daycare or maybe even finish a bachelor[’s] degree.”

These statements speak, in part, to the report’s key findings:

  • Individual Growth and Strength of Community: Achieving E&L Objectives
    E&L accomplishes its goals to create a sacred space for moms to reflect, and feel supported in a community, as well as deepen their commitment to themselves and their educational, professional, and family goals.
  • The Haze of Poverty: An Inability to Visualize the Future
    After taking E&L, many moms shared much more clarity in seeing their future and felt better positioned to dream, imagine, and plan ahead.
  • Narratives of Shame: An Internal and External Exploration
    Moms expressed their frustration with societal stigma and the exhaustion and shame of applying for public assistance or asking for support.
  • People Power: The Influence of Sisterhood Generated Through E&L
    Moms shared that the individual growth and confidence they experienced from E&L stemmed from being in a supportive community.
  • Continuing the Momentum: Adopting a Multifaceted Approach
    The individual and interpersonal work of E&L must be matched by organizational, environmental, and policy measures aimed at disrupting generational poverty.

The findings in this report point to significant considerations for programming designed to dismantle poverty, which must happen on multiple levels at once.

“We’re incredibly proud of what we’ve accomplished with the JP E&L program and see it as a strong structural framework to promote the kind of individual growth and interpersonal connection that are critical in the work of poverty disruption,” Chastity said. “The individual and interpersonal work must be matched by organizational, environmental, and policy measures aimed at disrupting generational poverty, and single moms experiencing poverty must not only hold a seat at the table but hold the mic and curate the agenda.”

Did these findings interest you? There’s more!

Delve into JP moms’ experiences with Empowerment and Leadership, our full findings, and programmatic recommendations.

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