Methods: Using a one-group pre-test, post-test, with follow-up design, we assessed self-reported outcomes of knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors regarding financial capability in social work practice. Thirty-seven social workers participated after registering for the trainings during 2010. A profile of the social workers surveyed, along with that of their client population will be presented. Pre-test and follow-up surveys were completed online, while the post-test paper survey was completed at the training's conclusion. Personal financial knowledge and behaviors were assessed using scales from the Survey of Consumers (Hilgert, Hogarth, & Beverly, 2003). Attitudes toward providing financial capability services, perceived self-efficacy, and practice behaviors related to assessment of client financial wellbeing were assessed using scales developed by the researchers, based on prior research, and input from financial experts. The survey asked social workers to identify organizational barriers that prohibit them from providing financial capability services (Lehman, Greener, & Simpson, 2002). Data analyses included descriptive statistics, dependent t-tests, and repeated measures ANOVA.
Results: From the time of the pre-test to the post-test (immediately following the training), participants reported significantly higher scores for knowledge regarding credit (p=.009), self-efficacy to work with clients (p=0.14), and ‘other' financial knowledge (p=.001). Other financial knowledge included life insurance, car loans, and bank overdrafts. Organizational structures identified as prohibiting participants from helping clients improve their financial wellbeing included not enough staff with expertise (27%), not enough time (24%), not able to bill for financial services (11%), and not covered by agency's grant or contract (8%). Overall satisfaction with the training was high (M=18.35 out of 20) and the majority of participants planned to incorporate parts of the training into their social work practice. Comparisons to a national study (Hilgert et al., 2003) and a sample of social work students (Sherraden et al., 2007) will be presented. Follow-up surveys will be completed summer 2011 and the authors will then re-analyze data to assess for sustained changes in knowledge, attitudes, and practice behaviors.
Conclusion and Implications: Financial capability services for social work clients are essential. Preliminary results suggest promising findings regarding outcomes from a training to improve the knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors of social work practitioners. Given the lack of professional training and education in financial capability and wellbeing, it is important that future research assess the capacity of social workers to meet the needs of vulnerable clients and communities in a more holistic manner that must include their financial status and potential to improve their quality of life.