Financial capability is central to the success of individuals, families and communities. Yet social workers and other human service professionals are often ill equipped to provide such services and resources to the clients they represent.
Many times these clients are in a vulnerable position. They do not have financial knowledge and skills they need, and require financial inclusion assistance, such as how to open a bank account or start a retirement savings plan. According to a 2012 FDIC survey, one in four American households, or 51 million adults, is unbanked or under banked, while 29 percent do not have a savings account and 10% do not have a checking account. Additionally, the same percentage applies to those who have used high-interest alternative financial service providers such as check cashing services and payday loans.
That is why Tennessee State University and the Center for Social Development at Washington University in St. Louis are working together to help fill in the gap in social workers’ financial knowledge so they can better assist their clients, which at times, includes those from disadvantaged or low-income segments of society.
Educators from TSU and several Historically Black Colleges and Universities, along with Tribal Colleges and Universities came together recently at Washington University to discuss the Financial Capability and Asset Building initiative, an program created by the Center for Social Development that will create and test a curriculum for training of social work and human service professionals.
The gathering provided a sense of reality with regard to the challenges in the field, said Mike Rochelle, CSD project director.
“Social work practitioners often find themselves unprepared to discuss clients’ economic challenges,” said Rochelle. “I think that’s why everyone is excited about this curriculum. They understand the implications of incorporating this type of material into traditional social work education. This symposium also increased their confidence that they can teach this material.”
During the three-day symposium, participants took part in various sessions, combining theory with practice. Representatives from the New York-based Financial Clinic, including the founder, Mae Watson Grote, led discussion and hands-on activities designed to build financial security in working poor households. Other sessions included keynotes addresses from Black and Ted Daniels, founder and president of the Society for Financial Education and Professional Development Inc <www.sfepd.org>; group discussions; case study development; and ground-level training on the household finance portion of the curriculum.
According to CSD Project Director Gena McClendon, FCAB combines financial education with cultural and policy issues, providing students with information and training that is culturally and historically relevant.
“It’s intentional that we invited institutions of color to be the groundbreakers on this curriculum,” said McClendon. Several educators, including Dr. Michael Wright, associate professor of social work <www.tnstate.edu/socialwork/> at TSU, applaud the FCAB initiative for starting with HBCUs and TCUs.
“We learned about the initiative and received training to incorporate the FCAB curriculum into courses this fall,” said Wright. “Financial capability is central to what we’re calling success for clients.”