Integrating Family Financial Security into Cradle-to-Career Pipelines: Learning Lessons from Promise Neighborhoods

More than 14 million American children are caught in poverty’s grip, lacking academic, familial, and health supports to provide them a step up into the middle class.1 Mirroring the racial wealth gap, the majority of these children come from families of color who are unable to get ahead, resulting in inadequacies that inhibit the individual child’s potential, the potential of
their families, and that of their communities to contribute to, and benefit from, our growing economy.  Many would suggest that a strong emphasis on financial literacy could help families overcome this problem. However, research shows that financial education alone does very little to impact the financial health of low-income households. What is needed, experts say, is financial education that is tied to actual skill-building opportunities through the use of quality financial products. At PolicyLink, we agreed with that thinking and took it a step further. Since low-income communities across the country are facing many systemic barriers that entrench poverty, efforts to address financial insecurity will require an in-depth strategy that can work with youth and their families over time. The missing element became clear: a coalescing force to bridge these interventions and form effective, efficient, results-driven systems from cradle to career.Across the country, the federal Promise Neighborhoods program has been building the infrastructure necessary to achieve these goals, challenging and rebuilding inequitable systems so that all children and families can fully participate in and benefit from a just and fair society. That is why, with the generous support of the Citi Foundation, PolicyLink and the Promise Neighborhoods Institute at PolicyLink (PNI) joined
forces with five of these communities to design and carry out strategies for embedding financial security into their pipelines of supports. The goal was to enhance theoverall outcomes of Promise Neighborhoods by empowering youth and their families to gain control over their financial lives and thus, their economic futures.