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The Cliff Effect and Other Perils on the Journey to Self-Sufficiency

Hope House of Colorado’s mission is to help teen moms become self-sufficient, which means addressing a complex set of issues, both financially and personally. Last month’s blog addressed generational poverty and how difficult it is to bridge out of poverty because of the value placed on relationships – relationships that are often unhealthy. This month the focus is on financial independence and the critical challenges our girls face as they work toward self-sufficiency.

The “cliff effect” is a term often used to describe the problem poor working families face when even a modest increase in income leads to the reduction or loss of government benefits. The “cliff effect”  is a particular danger for single mothers, especially the loss of CCAP (Colorado Childcare Assistance Program) or government subsidized childcare.

Take Aeriel, who graduated from our Residential program in 2012. She faced the reality of the cliff effect when she was given a very modest raise, bringing her hourly wage to approximately $14 an hour and causing her to immediately lose CCAP benefits. The result? Her childcare costs rose from $250 a month with CCAP to $750 a month – clearly more than her $1 an hour pay raise would cover. Her raise was going to cause a significant backward slide on her journey toward self-sufficiency.

A recent story in the Denver Post observed that “families facing the cliff effect have turned down raises or promotions to avoid losing essential benefits.” This is exactly what Aeriel was forced to do… she asked her supervisor to decrease her wage so she could maintain her childcare assistance.

Not surprisingly, the fact that the majority of our teen moms dropped out of school by 9th grade further complicates matters. In fact, a whopping 80% of women without at least some college education make less than the Self-sufficiency Standard, according to a study conducted by the University of Washington’s School of Social Work.

Our teen mothers are determined to overcome these complex issues, and with the help of a small army of volunteers and business owners, Hope House is helping them do so. Individual tutoring with volunteers in our GED Lab has led to an 80% graduation rate, but fewer than half of those girls are completing post-secondary education programs or schools. We are committed to changing this reality.

On September 10th, Hope House will launch a Learning Lab, providing tutoring, access to computers and the Internet, and professional development courses to our girls who are in either college or vocational school.

Our goal is to help our teen moms finish their education. Our mission is to help them stay on their journey to self-sufficiency and finish strong, creating a new future for themselves and their children… effectively breaking the cycle of poverty.

By Lisa Steven, Executive Director, Hope House of Colorado

 By Lisa Steven, Executive Director, Hope House of Colorado - See more at:

Career Partners Program: Calling all business owners and managers
Hope House is hosting a breakfast on September 25th for business owners and managers who are interested in joining our Career Partners Program, which provides employment and job internships for our teen moms. This innovative program allows our girls to gain the skills and experience necessary to earn wages that will allow them to no longer need government assistance.

For more information, contact Lynn Martinez at 303.429..1012, ext. 223.



Great article Lisa!
Kelly James
Posted By Kelly James | 9/5/13 02:53 PM
Comments:The Cliff Effect and Other Perils on the Journey to Self-Sufficiency
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Blog Archives

January 2018

Organizational Growth Cycles: Stages that Lead to a Mature Nonprofit - 01/23/2018

November 2017

Knowledge Share #19: Creating Unity: The Power of Mealtime - 11/20/2017

October 2017

Knowledge Share #18: The Power of Networking - 10/12/2017

September 2017

Knowledge Share #18: Engaging the Millennial Generation - 09/19/2017

August 2017

Knowledge Share #17: When the Dream Seems Too Big - 08/17/2017

July 2017

Knowledge Share #16: Personalized Learning - The Cornerstone of our GED Program - 07/18/2017

June 2017

Knowledge Share #15: Special Needs and Special Moms - 06/08/2017

April 2017

Knowledge Share #14: Creating Connections through Children - 04/18/2017

March 2017

Knowledge Share #13: Managing Volunteers: Benjamin Franklin had it right! - 03/13/2017

February 2017

Knowledge Share #12: Advocacy and Self-Sufficiency: Finding the Balance - 02/14/2017

January 2017

Knowledge Share #11: Effective PR and Spot On Communications - 01/18/2017

November 2016

Knowledge Share #10: I Walk the Line: Creating Deep Connections While Maintaining Professional Boundaries - 11/15/2016

September 2016

Knowledge Share #9: "Fundraising for Non-Profits: An Insider's Perspective" - 09/22/2016

August 2016

Knowledge Share #8: Breaking Out of Poverty - 08/18/2016

July 2016

Knowledge Share #7: Creating a Home - 07/11/2016

June 2016

Knowledge Share #6: The Power of Mindset - 06/14/2016

May 2016

Knowledge Share #5: College or Bust! - 05/17/2016

April 2016

Knowledge Share #4:Understanding Addiction - 04/07/2016

March 2016

Knowledge Share #3:Mentoring Empowers Teen Moms - 03/21/2016

February 2016

Knowledge Share #2: Healthy Relationships - 02/11/2016

January 2016

Knowledge Share #1: Brain Development - 01/12/2016

December 2015

Teen Mom Barrier #8: Communicating the Barriers - 12/16/2015

October 2015

Teen Mom Barrier #7: Homelessness - 10/09/2015

July 2015


June 2015

Teen Mom Barrier Number #5: Domestic Violence - 06/03/2015

May 2015

Teen Mom Barrier # 4 The Challenges of College - 05/12/2015

April 2015

Teen Mom Barrier #3: The Unexpected Bill: Car Repair, Doctor's Visit, Broken Pipe - 04/03/2015

February 2015

Teen Mom Barrier #2: Childcare - 02/18/2015

January 2015

Teen Mom Barrier #1: Society's Negative Expectations - 01/26/2015

December 2014

Teen Mom Misconception #7: Teen Moms Are Completely Self-Absorbed - 12/29/2014

October 2014

Teen Mom Misconception #6: Teen moms drop out of school because they want to - 10/31/2014

September 2014

Teen Mom Misconceptions #5: Success is Impossible - 09/22/2014

July 2014

Misconception #4: Shaming Teen Moms is an Effective Approach - 07/22/2014

June 2014

Misconception #3: Mentoring Teen Moms is Complicated - 06/05/2014

May 2014

Because they want someone to love them? - 05/21/2014

April 2014

Teen Moms - A Persecuted Population? - 04/22/2014

March 2014

Connecting across the Continents: Teen Moms and the People Who Love Them - 03/18/2014

February 2014

Can you break out of poverty with a vocabulary of just 900 words? - 02/17/2014

January 2014

Community - 01/20/2014

December 2013

8 Pennies - 12/18/2013

November 2013

"The most courageous young women I know." - 11/14/2013

September 2013

Our Graduates: In their hands, they hold the future! - 09/30/2013

August 2013

The Cliff Effect and Other Perils on the Journey to Self-Sufficiency - 08/30/2013

July 2013

Breaking the Cycle: Do Poor Teens Have to Become Poor Adults? - 07/30/2013

June 2013

Measuring the Intangible - 06/15/2013

May 2013

Grown-Up Mom - 05/01/2013


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Knowledge Share #14: Creating Connections through Children
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