Financial Capability and Asset Building: Preparation for Practice

Friday, January 16, 2015: 2:30 PM-4:15 PM
Balconies J, Fourth Floor (New Orleans Marriott)
Cluster: Poverty and Social Policy
Symposium Organizer:
Julie Birkenmaier, PhD, Saint Louis University
One hundred years ago, the social work profession focused explicitly on household economic life. Social workers helped families with household financial management and economic development by encouraging thrift and saving (Stuart, 2013). By mid 20th century, however, the focus on families’ financial lives was largely abandoned by social workers (Specht & Courtney, 1995). At the beginning of the 21st century, financial issues have taken center stage again in a context of rising inequality, precarious household finances, retirement account losses, and growing complexity of financial products. Although no profession adequately addresses financial capability among ordinary Americans, social workers are beginning to take up the challenge across all levels of practice (Birkenmaier, Sherraden, & Curley, 2013).

This symposium will provide empirical evidence about efforts to prepare practitioners to include or focus on financial capability and asset building (FCAB) work in social work practice. The presentations will address research questions about the need for FCAB preparation, outcomes of FCAB preparation efforts, as well as the degree to which adequate preparation is occurring.  These important research questions related to FCAB preparation have implications for interventions aimed at promoting FCAB knowledge and skills for practice. The first paper by Loke, Birkenmaier, Hageman, and Castillo focuses on the degree to which students are being prepared for FCAB practice through the social work curriculum.  They use survey results of students to investigate the current status of FCAB education.  Findings suggest that students perceive a need for FCAB education, but graduate without adequate preparation in this area.  The second paper by Sherraden and Birkenmaier reports findings of a study that assesses the effectiveness of an effort to increase social worker capacity for professional practice with low- and moderate-income families aimed at increasing household financial wellbeing. The study examines qualitative and quantitative evidence about student, instructor and administrator reactions to household financial content in courses across the curriculum.  Results suggest that instructors and administrators believe that social workers lack knowledge and skills for financial social work practice, are receptive to FCAB curriculum materials, and perceive a good fit between FCAB material and required social work courses. The third paper by Jacobson-Frey, Osteen, Hopkins, and Callahan provides results from two studies about practice-based training to increase knowledge, self-efficacy, and practice skills among social workers to help individuals and families recover from acute and chronic financial problems and work toward improving their immediate financial capability and future financial stability and overall quality of life. Results demonstrate that social work training through continuing education has the potential to improve knowledge, self-efficacy, and practice skills among social workers in the community.

In sum, these three studies provide guidance to efforts to promote preparation for practice infused with FCAB work.

* noted as presenting author
Preparation for Practice: Financial Capability and Asset Building in the Curriculum
Vernon Loke, PhD, Eastern Washington University; Julie Birkenmaier, PhD, Saint Louis University; Sally A. Hageman, MSW, University of Maryland at Baltimore; Jason Castillo, PhD, University of Utah
Financial Capability and Asset Building: Evidence-Based Innovation in Social Work Practice
Margaret Sherraden, University of Missouri-Saint Louis; Julie Birkenmaier, PhD, Saint Louis University
Financial Education As an Intervention to Change Social Workers' Practice Behaviors in Financial Capability Practice
Jodi Jacobson Frey, PhD, LCSW-C, University of Maryland at Baltimore; Philip Osteen, PhD, University of Maryland at Baltimore; Karen M. Hopkins, PhD, University of Maryland; Christine Callahan, PhD, University of Maryland at Baltimore
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