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Moving beyond ‘how-to’ instructions for low-income parents

Because every family’s financial condition and problems are unique, the path to stability varies. Self-help videos and “how-tochecklists are simply inadequate for many families. That’s where FamilyForward comes in.

How-to instructions often do not work for low-income families working with FamilyForward.

YouTube has countless videos about budgeting, money management and how to get out of debt. However, the people for whom how-to books and videos are helpful and effective are not the people who reach out to FamilyForward. The people who can get by with self-help tools are in a place mentally, emotionally and logistically where they can hear the advice of experts and then put it into practice.

In contrast, families entering the FamilyForward program need more than a YouTube video or a how-to guide. The “10 Easy Steps to Financial Independence!” one might find on the internet are not so easy for a parent who is stretched thin, overwhelmed and feeling hopeless. Many families who enter our program are so stressed by their financial situation that they do not even know what the first step should be.

In most cases, parents who enter our program are barely making ends meet, or are not making ends meet at all. Many of these parents must make difficult choices about paying rent, buying food, or paying other bills, because there simply is not enough money to pay for everything, let alone to put into savings for emergencies. When a parent is worried about where their child will sleep next month, or what their child will eat next week, a YouTube video is not going to lighten that load.


Practical support and guidance are better than ‘how-to’ instructions

That’s where FamilyForward comes in, with practical financial assistance and critically needed guidance and support.

The FamilyForward rent subsidy keeps the family housed. With the knowledge that they will not be evicted or displaced, the parent then has the ability to consider other aspects of their life.

Next, the volunteer mentors step in to help. FamilyForward knows that every family has their own story and their own circumstances. That is why every family has their own volunteer mentors — two knowledgeable and caring people who provide strategies, encouragement, accountability and support for their client-parent(s).


Every family’s path to financial stability looks different

Because every family’s financial condition and problems are unique, the path to stability is different for each family.

Some parents have an income problem. They simply do not bring in enough money to pay all their bills and keep a safe amount in the bank for emergencies. They work with their mentors on finding ways to grow their income. They might need to go back to school to finish a degree or a professional certificate. They might need a second job or a side hustle. They might need to apply for higher paying jobs within their industry or consider changing industries all together.

Some parents have an expense problem. They need to find ways to cut their expenses and live more frugally. Our volunteer mentors place a strong emphasis on financial literacy and household budgeting. “Cut your expenses” means something different for every family because every family’s composition, circumstances and goals are different.

Some parents have a debt problem. They are swallowed up by late fees, high interest rates, and debt that they cannot tackle until their current expenses are straightened out. Their mentors help them identify which bills to pay off, and in what order, to get the most utility out of the FamilyForward rent subsidy.

FamilyForward brings a customized, individualized approach to each family. We do not just hand our participants a binder and say, “follow these steps.” We do not presume that the path to financial stability will be smooth and linear. Our volunteer mentors provide what YouTube videos could never provide: a trusting relationship, ongoing moral support and encouragement, personalized guidance, and a glimmer of hope for the future.


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