“I cannot express enough how many people come to me admitting to having a spending addiction or an unbalanced budget who want to change and just need a little direction. It’s inspiring.”
-Megan Schmitz, Case Manager with Catholic Charities
Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Chicago (in Cook and Lake County) sees asset building as a core component of their mission of charity and has created the Family Self Sufficiency program, a new Individual Development Accounts (IDA) pilot program, and numerous other programs in their ongoing work to strengthen and support individuals, families, and communities based on the value and dignity of human life. Without assets such as employment, a degree, a car, and a savings account, their clients find themselves severely behind. They believe asset building includes changing their clients’ attitudes about money, talking about regular spending habits, and encouraging behaviors that demonstrate good spending practices.
Catholic Charities understands that asset building takes place in stages and has designed their programs so clients can graduate to greater asset security and access. The only program of its kind in the Midwest, the Family Self Sufficiency Program based in Lake County serves single parents and aids them in becoming economically self-sufficient through case management and employment services. Case Managers work with these clients on their education, financial and employment goals by providing support, direction, and referrals. Additionally, all clients in the Family Self Sufficiency program are eligible to participate in their new IDA program.
Megan Schmitz, a Case Manager and Financial Literacy Counselor at Catholic Charities “enjoy[s] this work because with financial education and asset based programs you can see real results – the client who reduces her debt through strategies discussed in appointments, the people who open first time checking and savings accounts, the clients who have an emergency fund and therefore can avoid payday loans and predatory lenders.”
Real results include 28 year old single parent, Maria Garcia (name changed for confidentiality) who entered the program doing odd jobs to make ends meet. Maria and her case manager met regularly to review her goals and finances. Her goals involved obtaining her GED, securing stable employment, and being more financial stable. Through this intensive case management and a lot of determination on the Maria’s part, she now has her GED and a stable full-time job. At her case manager’s suggestion, Maria opened her first ever checking and savings accounts and was able to obtain a personal loan from a credit union for a family crisis that occurred.
With the success of the program, Catholic Charities hopes to expand it – allowing more families to access these important savings tools.