On June 22, members and guests of the Black Giving Circle Fund gathered at the Hartford Foundation for the group’s second meeting of 2017. The forum provided a more in-depth look at this year’s topic: “Money Matters: Preparing Black Children and Youth to Attain Financial Literacy.”
The inaugural grantmaking year was a successful one for the fund, which had more than 80 members and recommended its first grant, to support reading proficiency for Black children from birth through third grade, in 2016. The grant was awarded to Catholic Charities’ Parker Memorial Fatherhood Initiative, which fosters paternal relationships while also encouraging reading.
Chari Anderson, senior development associate at the Hartford Foundation, provided an overview of the giving circle process and announced that members will vote to award a $10,000 grant in November. Anderson then introduced the evening’s presenters, Tasheenah Brown and Maura Cook of the United Way of Central and Northeastern Connecticut, an organization that is committed to the issue of financial literacy. At the April meeting, members of the Black Giving Circle Fund expressed an interest in learning about dual-generation approaches to financial literacy programming. The United Way has done a lot of work on the issue of financial literacy with adults, and has expanded its work in that area to include financial education for youth.
Brown and Cook began their presentation by sharing statistics about the financial status of Connecticut households. For example, according to the United Way’s ALICE® (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed) Report, 41% of families in central and northeast Connecticut are unable to make ends meet. Within the city of Hartford, that figure jumps to 74%. When you look at the demographics of who is struggling in our state, no group is excluded. Poverty in ALICE® households affects all racial and ethnic groups, but individuals in Hispanic, Black or Asian households are more proportionally at risk to being part of the ALICE® demographic and living in poverty.
For ALICE® families in Connecticut, housing and child care costs constitute more than 50% of the household survival budget, which is the amount of money families need to make ends meet (i.e., to cover housing, child care, food, transportation, healthcare, and taxes). Nearly half of jobs in the state pay less than $20 per hour, and many ALICE® families do not have the additional funds needed to provide children with enhanced educational experiences and enrichment programs. Cook noted that children in lower income communities tend to have significantly fewer books in the home than their counterparts in middle- and high-income communities. The United Way builds literacy kits and financial literacy kits to help children build their own libraries and start learning about financial skills at an early age.
The presenters mentioned three pillars of long-term financial success: workforce development, income supports and financial coaching. The United Way supports programs that help adults in those areas, and Brown and Cook believe the pillars of success are the same for youth ages 14 through 24. Their research has found that students who have those financial learning experiences earlier are better off, and noted the significance of reaching youth before they become employed, so they know that to do once they receive their first paycheck.
Brown and Cook shared details of successful local youth programs and noted where there are gaps and opportunities. The exemplary programs provide youth job placement with job coaching and/or a matching savings incentive. Many programs, however, lack the resources needed to provide services and incentives beyond job placement. Additionally, much of the financial programming for youth is workshops based, consisting of single a session that does not offer not provide ongoing learning. The presenters recommended personal, one-on-one intervention coupled with workshops as the most effective approach to youth financial literacy programming.
Following the presentation, meeting attendees broke into groups to participate in an activity that placed them in the shoes of a typical ALICE® family and provided a simulated experience of some of the tough financial choices that these families have to make every day. Attendees reconvened to share their feelings about the difficult decisions they were forced to make during the activity.
The meeting concluded with a question-and-answer session with the guest speakers, followed by discussion among the guests and closing remarks from Anderson. The Black Giving Circle Fund will hold its grantmaking meeting on November 16.