• Bibian Okoye

The Idea of Family Coach to Wealth

Family Coach to wealth first and foremost changes the fundamental way in which case managers, coaches, and other family-support workers engage participants. Some of the terms here might be confusing, so it’s important to define what we mean. When we refer to a coach, we mean: a person who works one-on-one with a participant in a collaborative process to help address individual and family goals. This broad definition of coach includes everyone that provides one-on-one services including, case managers, family support workers, counselors, and others. It does not mean, however, that a coach is only using “coaching” to support families. When we refer to a participant, we mean: the person who is taking part in the coaching relationship. Because the target audience for Family Coach to wealth is often parents,

Our definition of parent is purposefully broad — it may include grandparents, foster parents, and other caregivers who are responsible for keeping a family moving together

When we refer to families, we take an expansive view of intentional and created families in their many varieties. A family could include a parent and his or her children. It could include stepparents, grandparents, and foster parents and children. Or it may include cousins, aunts, uncles, close friends, and any other person who is considered part of the family. The key is putting the participant or parent in the driver’s seat of the work, because parents are their own best experts at what they need, what strengths they can draw from and build upon, and where the sticky challenges are for themselves and their families. In Family Coach to wealth, the participant takes the lead in identifying goals for their defined family. Doing this, and establishing a relationship between coach and participant on the same level, is the heart of the work, and enables coaches to support parent-driven agendas. When constructed in this way, the relationship between a participant, their defined family, and the coach can be transformational for families to achieve their goals. You as a “coach” enter with a wide lens on how a family may be defined and the range of interests and needs they may have. Second, Family Coach to wealth focuses on the whole family, instead of focusing only the interests of one person. While many organizations focus on particular aspects of a participant’s life — such as financial stability or child developmental outcomes — Family Coach to wealth aims to bring all aspects together to better serve the family. Family Coach to wealth helps you find ways to consider the whole family, even though all family members aren’t usually a part of the actual coaching sessions

Third, Family Coach to wealth takes into account different perspectives on how to improve outcomes for families, recognizing that families need different things at different times to move forward. And importantly, Family Coach to wealth is rooted in an understanding of the institutional forces that prevent families from moving forward: the long and persistent effects of systemic racism and poverty are at the root of many family challenges. A deep recognition of this is critical to supporting families living with those realities. The family-centered coach is the one person working with the family whose job is to keep the whole family in mind. While ideally, a family would have a relationship with one coach who helps to track and coordinate supports, resources, and tools that the family needs.

During the past ten years, financial coaching has emerged as a powerful means for helping families move toward economic stability and sufficiency. Initial research shows that supporting families to achieve their financial goals is promising strategy for helping them also achieve other goals. Talking about finances with families is often a means to learn about what is happening in their overall life and what they are trying to achieve. A parent may come into your program to wanting to talk about a debt issue, but as the conversation unfolds you learn that there are child care needs and an unexpected medical crisis that contributed to the credit issues. As you work with the parent to understand the pieces of their financial life, it will lead back to many other areas on the content wheel. Being able to save is linked to many other outcomes for family well-being.

General tips and advice for coaching on this topic:

  • Be sure the meeting space is comfortable and allows for privacy. Make the approach to the conversation nonjudgmental assuring the parent the discussion is confidential and that how quickly they proceed depends on how fast they want to go – the parent sets the agenda and pace and the coach provides the options.

  • Start the conversation with basic and non-specific questions by asking the parent how they are doing overall. It doesn’t matter if the response is related to a financial concern or not. If you start by asking about their budget or credit then they can feel overwhelmed. “Listen to learn” by providing space and waiting for them to tell you what is most important. Parents, like us, come in with what they perceive as their failures and it is not the coaches’ roles to given an opinion, but to support them through listening knowing that they will develop their own solutions.

  • As for all the content areas, cultural competence is key. It is important to have staff who can interact with a parent in their own language and who know the culture.

  • For many programs, financial coaching and child care needs are closely tied. Many early care and education programs have upfront conversations with parents about their finances as a means to help parents recognize that they could benefit from financial coaching. Then with strong referral mechanisms in place, parents can receive the assistance with finances that they need.

  • Do you have a budget? Do they feel like they have extra money at the end of every month? If not, what do you do? Are you able to put money into savings? Make a visual and a budget helps them have an “aha” moment.

  • Many times, coaches can guide parents in making the most progress by broaching the topic of college saving. Families feel motivated when they can think about this in bite sized pieces. Research shows that any type of savings creates a more likelihood of going to college and staying in college.

  • Financial problem solving is an important conversation. What happens when an unexpected thing happens to a family? You can help a family identify a head of time what they will if something happens. Having backup scenarios helps them be prepared and able to make better decisions when something unexpected happens.

  • Typical financial topics for discussion include savings, cost of childcare, tax credits related to children, access to financial products and services, income and spending, and debt.

  • Never endorse products or services. Coaches must not recommend or suggest that participants use a specific financial product or service, regardless of perceived quality or lack of a conflict of interest. The client must trust that the coach is establishing a relationship that puts the responsibility of product search on the client.

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