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News YWCA financial program a success for struggling families

YWCA financial program a success for struggling families

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Robert Francis
Robert Francis
Robert is a Fort Worth native and longtime editor of the Fort Worth Business Press. He is a former president of the local Society of Professional Journalists and was a freelancer for a variety of newspapers, weeklies and magazines, including American Way, BrandWeek and InformatonWeek. A graduate of TCU, Robert has held a variety of writing and editing positions at publications such as the Grand Prairie Daily News and InfoWorld. He is also a musician and playwright.

Betty Dillard bdillard@bizpress.net

A new Financial Empowerment Services Program offered by YWCA Fort Worth & Tarrant County has made significant progress during its inaugural year, according to officials at the nonprofit organization. Long dedicated to helping transform the lives of women and children from poverty to independence through housing stability and affordable child care, the organization set out last year to find a new path to help women and families move up the economic ladder. Since the program was launched in January 2013, more than 155 individuals have attended financial education classes and 250 individuals have attended personalized financial coaching sessions. More than 42 clients have already demonstrated positive financial changes. “When our neighbors possess sound, practical financial knowledge applicable to their daily lives, the benefits to both the individuals and to the community are profound,” said Carol Klocek, YWCA Fort Worth & Tarrant County executive director.

“When women prosper, their families prosper. When families prosper, our entire community becomes healthier, more vibrant and stronger,” she said. Through its Financial Empowerment Services, the YWCA teaches clients about basic money management, including budgeting, establishing and maintaining savings accounts, filing taxes, use of tax refunds, and saving to reach ultimate goals such as buying a house or paying for college or health insurance. The goal is to help participants make smart financial decisions that will prevent a crisis from causing them to fall into debt or turn to payday and auto-title lending. Despite indicators pointing to an improving economy, 50 percent of Texas households are in a persistent state of financial security, according to the 2014 Assets & Opportunity Scorecard released in January by the Corporation for Enterprise Development. The CFED’s report defines these financially insecure residents as “liquid asset poor,” which means they have little or no savings to cover basic expenses at the federal poverty level – that’s $23,550 for a family of four – for even three months in the event of an emergency such as a job loss or health crisis. The report also found that state policies are doing little to improve the financial security of Texans. Texas ranked 48th in the policy areas of financial assets and income and 34th in education. In Tarrant County, one in 10 women and one in four children live in poverty, according to YWCA Fort Worth & Tarrant County. Among families who live below the poverty line, 80 percent have a full-time worker in the home. But working families need more than a job to work their way out of poverty, say officials at the YWCA. Women, as well as men, throughout the community benefit from the program, Klocek said. The YWCA has three full-time, certified financial coaches on staff and trained volunteer coaches with strong financial business backgrounds. In the YWCA’s three child development centers – in downtown Fort Worth, the Polytechnic Child and Family Development Center and on the campus of the University of Texas at Arlington – all parents are offered free financial education classes and one-on-one coaching sessions.

All women in the YWCA’s residential housing services and low-income families in off-site housing placements receive financial education and coaching in the case management services they receive. Additionally, the YWCA provides outreach to low- and moderate-income individuals and families through partnerships with Tarrant County College, Fort Worth Housing Authority, Catholic Charities and One Safe Place. Klocek said the one-on-one coaching and incentives offered through the YWCA’s Financial Empowerment Program are on track to reach 900 individuals in Tarrant County over a 12-month period. “In turn, these individuals can alter the lives of their family members, which helps to eliminate the cycle of poverty for the next generation,” Klocek said. The YWCA’s Financial Empowerment Program was launched with a grant from JPMorgan Chase Foundation. “Chase believes there’s nothing more important than providing great educational opportunities, including financial coaching to help low-income families develop effective spending and saving habits,” said Todd Ritterbusch, chairman of Chase Tarrant County. “Working together with the YWCA, we will provide financial empowerment that gives our neighbors improved financial stability, greater self-sufficiency and hope.” Additional support for the program has been provided by the Kimberly-Clark Foundation, Cornerstone Credit Union Foundation, Wells Fargo Bank, Community Bank and the Nancy and John Snyder Foundation. Major support also came from United Way CORE Funding and United Way Earn Well Financial Stability Initiative. “We are very excited about being part of the Financial Stability Initiative with the United Way,” Klocek said. “This funding made it possible for us to work with so many more low-to-moderate income families who are truly motivated to create financial stability and build assets.”  

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