New Mexico’s children are in crisis, ranking 49th in the nation in overall child wellbeing. They are in crisis because their families are economically, educationally and socially marginalized and have little hope of moving through significant barriers to a stable future. The heavy hand of toxic stress that comes with early poverty and all of its relatives is scripting the lives of children with patterns of disappointment and deprivation that shape a life of limitations.
Dr. Willie Elliott’s research has demonstrated the power that even small savings accounts have on school engagement, academic achievement and college enrollment and completion. However, with an understanding that marginalized and disadvantaged individuals and families face multiple challenges that cannot be overcome by the efforts of a single strategy or organization, Prosperity Works seeks to leverage this knowledge to make our CSA product the centerpiece of a robust, holistic approach to asset creation.
The dual-generation, collective impact strategy that we are delivering—with Prosperity Kidstm as a centerpiece—will have an educational, economic and social impact for children and their families. Targeting families with preschool children in an area of concentrated and persistent poverty opens opportunities for parents, children, and the entire family unit, as shown in the figure below.
Description of the Intervention
500 children from birth to 11 years old whose parents have completed 10 weeks of child development and community leadership training and two weeks of financial capability training are receiving CSA with a $100 seed deposit, in a custodial account at the Rio Grande Credit Union. Family and child deposits into these accounts will be matched up to $200 per year for 10 years. At high school graduation, these funds may be used for post-secondary education. If not used for this purpose, funds may be used at age 23 to secure a stable financial transition into adulthood.
This intervention builds assets for tomorrow, too, not just for the distant future. Parents are eligible to open an emergency savings account with a $10 initial seed. These accounts get parents “banked”—in many cases for the first time—while incentive deposits into the accounts, up to $100 a year for five years encourage behaviors that support healthy outcomes for their children. Incentivized behaviors include things like ensuring regular school attendance, participation in teacher meetings, volunteering at school or improving their own education or job skills. These accounts also offer a secured credit card, allowing parents to build credit and avoid predatory lenders.
Many of the families in our target population are of mixed immigration status, so our financial capability training has been designed to develop an understanding of US financial systems. And because we think of “assets” broadly and understand “documentation” to be critical to financial and emotional security, we have included immigrant legal services and documentation loans in our resources for families. There are literally thousands of New Mexicans who are eligible for green cards and citizenship but do not have the money for filing fees. This approach removes that barrier and explicitly links civic engagement to financial wellbeing.
Families must be stable before they can grow. Removing barriers and creating opportunities for full participation in education, community and our economy capitalizes on the capacities and dreams of the people we serve. Bringing together organizations that have a demonstrated track record, shared vision, and common understanding of the problem, we have created a unified agenda to affect household, community and systemic change. While each element of the model below has been carefully designed and selected, they work best in concert. The problems to which our interventions respond are multifaceted and deeply rooted; so, too, must be our approach.
Finally, with mutually-reinforcing activities provided in high trust relationships among high performing partners, we will utilize a shared measurement approach to glean results on a regular basis for accountability, continuous improvement and replication. Measures will include:
- Pre- and elementary school enrollment, attendance, stability and grade progression
- Educational gap comparison; participants/non participants
- Parent participation in school and community
- Completion of all aspects of parent education
- Improvement in employment and income
- Parent and child expectations for the future
- Asset formation
- Policy changes that support positive family and child outcomes
This is how kids and families will thrive.
Partners in our collective impact include Partnership for Community Action, Rio Grande Credit Union, Native Community Finance, The Interfaith Immigration Coalition, and the New Mexico Immigrant Loan Fund.