Integrating Financial Empowerment and Social Services

June 27, 2017
By Jeremy Hegle , Senior Community Development Advisor


Social workers support communities across a wide spectrum of services, including health care, housing, emergency assistance and workforce development. While the reasons clients seek assistance vary greatly, financial challenges almost always are a contributing factor. Building financial capability services into these programs, known as financial capability integration, may increase the program’s desired impact while also improving the client’s overall financial outcomes. A key challenge to integrating financial capability is that social workers seldom receive in-depth financial education training, leaving them inadequately prepared to fully support their clients.

To address this need, in 2016 the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City began partnering with the United Way of Greater Kansas City and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. to train social service organizations on the Your Money, Your Goals (YMYG) Toolkit. The training, developed by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), is not a curriculum, rather it is a toolkit to address a variety of client needs, including:

  • Dealing with debt
  • Paying bills and tracking spending
  • Tracking and managing income
  • Understanding credit reports and scores

In addition to covering specific financial topics, the training provides guidance on integrating the tools into existing programs. Ways to start the money conversation, understanding cultural and emotional influences on financial decisions and ways to calm clients’ feelings of being overwhelmed are covered in the training.

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In 2016, a total of 127 social work case managers attended the day-long training, which was offered four times in Kansas City. Initial feedback was positive and mirrors feedback the CFPB received on training sessions elsewhere. Attendees responding to follow-up surveys indicated they are more confident in their understanding of core financial topics, more comfortable having financial conversations and in their knowledge of community resources to assist clients.

Jamie Batschke, Education and Support Program Manager at Catholic Charities of Kansas City-St. Joseph, attended one of the trainings in 2016. "I found the training to be highly effective in raising awareness of staff and the toolkit remains on my desk as a valuable and frequently used resource for myself and my team. Our Financial Literacy team utilizes Your Money, Your Goals to facilitate monthly staff in-service trainings that serve to increase capacity in effectively supporting clients in financial matters."

Based on attendee feedback, the training has been expanded for 2017, with sessions in Denver, Oklahoma City and Omaha, as well as Kansas City. The training has also been expanded to include labor groups, who expressed similar interest in meeting the financial needs of their members. Ten labor representatives attended the 2017 training sessions in Denver and Kansas City.

Another part of the expanded training is a “deep dive” for social workers and labor groups. The most recent of these shorter, more narrowly focused events was June 27. Additional information is available here. The training was held in Kansas City and was also streamed live via YouTube.