by Michael A. Smith
In its seventh year of combating intergenerational poverty across the Midwest, the Pathway of Hope (POH) initiative has demonstrated sustained success in empowering families toward increased sufficiency.
Studies suggest one crucial factor for families maintaining progress over time is developing positive support systems. For example, a 2017 Loyola University study found that POH families who completed initial spiritual assessments and built ongoing supports, such as in the corps, posted better outcomes compared to families without consistent supports. Moreover, current data in The Salvation Army Information System (SIMS) positively correlated POH family corps engagement with larger increases in hope and self-sufficiency scores during POH—and, as importantly, higher scores at a six month follow-up—compared to families who did not participate in corps activities.
Given these outcomes and the Army’s holistic mission that recognizes the value for families to be integrated into corps for their spiritual and youth character development, territorial social services department POH staff recognized a tighter documentation plan for this aspect was needed so they could provide a stronger report on POH family engagement in corps and faith communities.
Review of the data in SIMS also showed that although many locations engage POH families in pastoral care and corps programs, there was a lack of specifics and standardized data entry to tell the full integration story.
In order to paint a more detailed picture, the territorial POH data management team incorporated additional questions in SIMS earlier this year, and throughout the territory POH staff began entering additional data at regular intervals. The new questions focus on the timing and delivery of pastoral care and POH family participation in corps’ activities such as weekly worship, youth participation in music instruction, etc. This is important because the collection and analysis of integration data serves to inform corps leaders of the success or need to improve their outreach and pastoral care to families in POH.
To further underscore the importance of integration, POH achievement awards criteria linked to pastoral care and corps integration have been bolstered. Corps which meet the enhanced benchmarks will be eligible for consideration of annual POH achievement and outstanding achievement financial awards.
In a spirit of collaboration, the Central Territory shared its newly developed POH Family/Corps Integration data template with the National Pathway of Hope Committee which coordinates POH service delivery across the four U.S. territories.