How the State Helps Parents and Children Thrive Together


As a community when we make sure that everyone can reach their potential and fully contribute to our communities, we all benefit. The Tennessee Department of Human Services (DHS) emphasizes the two generation approach, partnering with parents and children to build cycles of success. DHS oversees programs including child support, child care services, Families First, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and vocational rehabilitation services. It also partners with local community organizations across the state to support generational success.

Poverty significantly disrupts families’ well-being, and can have a long-lasting impact on communities. Poverty-related experiences such as malnutrition and other chronic, severe stressors can affect children’s healthy development. These problems can carry over into adulthood, lowering financial stability, reducing workforce participation, and increasing health care needs.

A proactive way to help provide two generational support to reduce childhood poverty now is through family-focused support services like nutrition assistance, child care assistance, housing, workforce training, and parenting and educational resources. TDHS has adopted a strategy to ensure its programs are designed for the entire family—in other words, for parents as well as children. This two-generation approach, called 2G for Tennessee, or 2Gen, rethinks how TDHS provides services, supports to families, and collaborates within the communities.

Building Blocks of Thriving Families

The 2Gen approach supports services and opportunities for the parent and the child equally. Just as building a strong house requires certain materials; building well-being requires community resources, social relationships and opportunities to thrive. When these materials are not available, people and communities may have shaky foundations that make it difficult to weather life’s storms. The four key components of the 2Gen approach are education; economic supports; health and well-being; and social capital.

Here’s a quick look at programs and services administered by TDHS and how 2G for Tennessee is helping parents and children.

Smart Steps provides child care assistance to income-eligible working parents and parents pursuing postsecondary educational goals that have children ages six (6) weeks to five (5) years of age. Families that participate in Smart Steps are responsible for a portion of their child care costs or co-pay based on a sliding income scale. As part of the program, children will be enrolled in quality, affordable, child care facilities and the Imagination Library. Smart Steps is available on a first come, first serve basis.

Get more details, and instruction on how to apply for Smart Steps.

Families First is a temporary program focused on workforce development and employment. The Families First Program supports participants to reach employment goals by providing child care assistance, education, job training, employment activities and other activities.

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) provides nutritional assistance benefits to children and families, the elderly, the disabled, unemployed individuals, and working families. The program helps supplement monthly food budgets of families with low income so they can buy the food they need to maintain good health and direct more of their available income towards essential living expenses.

The Child Support Program provides services that promote parental responsibility to meet the financial needs of children and families.

The Vocational Rehabilitation Program (VR), provides a variety of individualized services to persons with disabilities, helping prepare them to work in a competitive labor market. VR promotes employment outcomes for individuals that are consistent with their strengths, resources and abilities.

Visit the Tennessee Department of Human Services website for more programs and services that may be of help to your family.

Additional Resources

Outside of TDHS, there are other state services, programs, initiatives and resources that contribute to family well-being:

Drive to 55 Alliance

Imagination Library


Job Search

Adult Education

Tennessee Community Action Agencies


Health and Well-Being