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Integrating Financial Capability Services: Examples from Community Action and Head Start

Published: April 27, 2016
April 27, 2016
Small image of two women learning about financial education.

Large image of two women learning about financial education.

Courtesy of CFED

By Office of Community Services Staff

Today, we are providing examples of what the integration of financial capability services into existing social service programs is like at the local level.  For an overview of the Administration for Children and Families’ (ACF) efforts, read yesterday’s post.  This is in honor of National Financial Capability Month.  We also want to highlight the progress over the last year since we released Building Financial Capability: A Planning Guide for Integrated Services (the Guide).  Developed in partnership with the Corporation for Enterprise Development (CFED), the Guide provides community-based organizations with field-tested tools for planning how to integrate financial capability services into their existing programs. 

The Guide was designed to be adaptable so that virtually any organization that serves low-income people would find the tools and resources in the Guide useful.  There are many different kinds of existing programs that have been integrated with financial capability services, including employment, housing, and domestic violence programs.  The examples we’re featuring today are from organizations in the community action field, which is supported by the Community Services Block Grant, and two of them have focused on serving Head Start parents.  We’ve selected these examples because they illustrate how the Guide is benefiting the organizations and people that ACF supports. 

NeighborImpact, a community action agency serving central Oregon, and Wayne Metropolitan Community Action Agency (Wayne Metro), which serves Wayne County, Michigan, have both used the Guide to extend financial capability services to parents in their Head Start programs.  They both started out using the tools in Section 1 of the Guide, “Envisioning Your Clients’ Financial Capability.”

Wayne Metro plans to integrate free tax preparation assistance, financial coaching, and matched savings accounts into their Head Start parent programming.  To begin their planning process, Wayne Metro used Tool 1 to identify how parents were currently managing their finances, and Tool 3 to envision what improved financial capability would look like for Head Start parents. 

NeighborImpact determined that financial education, financial counseling, and financial coaching services would be the most relevant services for the parents in their Head Start program.  Last month, NeighborImpact started offering financial fitness workshops for Head Start parents in four central Oregon communities to raise awareness about the free financial coaching and counseling services available through HomeSource, their program that supports home buyers and home owners. 

Both organizations determined what services they wanted to offer and worked to identify what approach they would use to provide services: refer, partner, or do-it-yourself.  Wayne Metro used Tool 4: In-House Capacity to assess the capacity of their staff to deliver financial capability services.  They discovered that their staff needed additional training in order to provide quality referrals to financial capability services.  They have trained 19 Family Service Workers on integration, and they continue to offer staff training opportunities.

NeighborImpact’s HomeSource and Head Start staff completed Tool 9: The Referral Plan to think through a strong internal system for referring Head Start parents to financial counseling.  HomeSource staff trained Head Start teachers on how to complete a “menu of services document” with parents during home visits. The document essentially serves as a referral form, allowing Head Start teachers to check the financial capability services in which parents express interest.  It also includes a line for the parent’s name and contact information so HomeSource staff can contact the parents about the services they selected.  Staff from both programs meet regularly to discuss ways to increase referrals.

The Massachusetts Association for Community Action (MASSCAP) is different from NeighborImpact and Wayne Metro; it’s the statewide association of the 23 community action agencies operating in Massachusetts.  MASSCAP has been using the Guide as a technical assistance tool with their member agencies.  These member agencies serve people from cities, suburban areas, and rural areas, and all of these people have unique and varied needs.  The Guide has helped member agencies tailor the financial capability services they offer to the specific needs of their clients. The step-by-step tools helped MASSCAP’s members work through a deliberate process to develop theories of change and logic models for their financial capability services.  All of this work creates a solid foundation for offering services to their clients and measuring the success of the services.

These innovative organizations demonstrate how integrating financial capability services can enhance existing programs and benefit clients. As Acting Assistant Secretary Mark Greenberg said last year in the ACF Financial Capability Letter to State Human Services Commissioners, “…we believe that incorporating stronger attention to strengthening financial capability can help families succeed economically, and can help human services programs better accomplish their goals.” We hope that these examples have inspired you to think about how financial capability integration can work for your organization and the people you serve.

Follow ACF on Twitter for more program information and updates.

Archived: November 14, 2017

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