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UW-Extension Head Start Financial Literacy Project
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Financial Education for Parents

Financial Education and Coaching with Head Start Families

During the 2010-2011 school year, families in 16 counties across Wisconsin participated in the Money $mart in Head Start (MSiHS) program (blue and green on map to left). This was the program’s second year, following a smaller pilot during the 2009-2010 school-year that involved seven counties (in blue on map). The MSiHS program consists of a series of partnerships between local Head Start programs and University of Wisconsin-Extension Family Living Educators. The MSiHS program offers a mixture of three financial literacy interventions—monthly newsletters, financial education workshops, and financial coaching—to parents with children enrolled in Head Start or Early Head Start. Head Start families were the focus of this program because they have low-incomes and are therefore vulnerable to financial shocks.

Implementation of the Money $mart in Head Start Program

Families are invited to participate in the MSiHS project at the start of the school year either through Head Start staff or through UW-Extension educators at Head Start events (e.g. family nights, open houses). Households are asked to voluntarily complete a survey about their financial behaviors, knowledge, confidence, and interest in participating in financial coaching. Participants are then mailed a follow-up survey in the spring.

Families that participate in the MSiHS program can be offered a mixture of the following financial capability-building activities, depending on local resources and collaborating Head Start agencies: monthly newsletters, financial literacy workshops, and financial coaching.

1) Monthly Newsletters

A series of eight monthly newsletters that highlight key financial information are available on this website. Newsletters can be distributed through the postal mail, e-mail, sent home with children attending Head Start centers, or given out during family home visits during the school year. The newsletters were designed such that readers are encouraged to set a financial goal during the first month, with subsequent newsletters highlighting financial management skills that could help them reach those goals.

2) Financial Literacy Workshops

Two financial literacy workshops are available for use by UW-Extension Family Living Educators. One of the workshops focuses on budgeting and saving, and the other focuses on credit management. The workshops were designed to complement, rather than simply repeat, the information in the monthly newsletters.

3) Financial Coaching

Recognizing that information alone may not be enough to help individuals change their behavior and reach their financial goals, financial coaching can be offered in counties where UW-Extension educators or volunteers are trained in coaching. Financial coaching is a collaborative process in which the coach and family work together, usually checking-in once a month, to reach long-term financial goals.

For more information on Money Smart in Head Start, contact Peggy Olive, Associate Professor, UW Cooperative Extension, Richland County, Wisconsin.

We are grateful for the support of the Annie E. Casey Foundation for this project.