Integrating Financial Security into Promise Neighborhoods

With the rise in income inequality, an exponentially growing racial wealth gap, and the recent knowledge that almost half of the country has vastly inadequate emergency savings, it’s the perfect time for the Promise Neighborhoods initiative to consider how they can embed family financial security into their efforts. 

Promise Neighborhoods are working in 61 low-income communities across the country to provide wraparound services to improve educational outcomes for children and their families. The sites are held to a set of specific results and indicators and must demonstrate that they’ve moved the needle.

We know that academic challenges faced by students in urban and rural areas are directly connected to concentrated poverty in those areas. Students from low-income households have lower rates of literacy, less parent involvement in school, lower rates of attendance, and poor health outcomes. In addition, children who are born into poverty are more likely to remain in poverty as adults, creating a cyclical effect over generations. Wraparound services for parents and children would only be strengthened by efforts to help families master their financial positions.

There is substantial research that shows that low-income families can save. Savings and assets are the tools that allow families to withstand financial crisis and invest in their future. In addition, children with a savings account in their own name are 2.5 times more likely to enroll in college than children with no account.

Integrating Family Financial Security in Promise Neighborhoods: A Resource and Implementation Guide, a new PolicyLink resource, helps sites consider the many ways in which they might incorporate financial capability into their on-going work. Key takaways include a focus on the fact that financial security can be embedded across the continuum of services children and families receive throughout the child’s academic trajectory. Financial capability skills for participants should not be a one-off goal but rather continuously integrated into conversations about future goals for that child, their family, and their community. Additionally, sites should spend a substantial amount of time understanding the demand for asset-building services, gauging their organizational capacity to offer or refer to such services, and developing strategic partnerships with invested leadership that are willing to hold themselves accountable to Promise Neighborhoods initiative results as well as financial results for families.