Building Wealth and Health Network
The concept of peer support is paramount in the Network, which brings together a group of people who have shared experiences so they can tap into each other and stimulate resilience, personal growth, recovery, and well-being. What ties trauma-informed practice and financial empowerment components is the concept of SELF – Safety, Emotional management, Loss and letting go, and developing a sense of Future. Through the 16-session Financial SELF Empowerment curriculum, a SELF empowerment coach and a financial empowerment coach guide group discussion related to finances, employment, family, and community.
In addition to learning money management techniques and problem-solving skills, Network members also share their knowledge, experience, and support with each other. They share information and opportunities, such as a diaper bank or a job fair that is occurring. There is also an asset-building component to the program: members save money each month towards their individual life goals, and their savings are matched $1:$1, which helps them build a nest egg for investment faster than they otherwise could. The matching funds come from grant funding.
Addressing and healing individuals’ trauma is where the safety, emotions, and loss parts come in, and goal setting and building new financial opportunities is where the future is born. “People who have experienced trauma can have a hard time creating individual goals and being able to stick to them, or even to thinking that they have a future. The savings account is a future-oriented type of experience, and it's experiential, where people can start to invest in their future,” says Dr. Mariana Chilton, the Network’s founder. At the start of each cohort, they set group goals for saving and track their collective progress towards those goals, so everyone is invested in the group’s success.
Local TANF offices refer potential participants to the Network program and their participation in the group sessions count towards their TANF work requirement. Participants are referred to as members and remain members of the Network even after they complete the sessions. The program hosts quarterly meetings of its Network member advisory council with members who have completed the program, who advise on programming changes, marketing and recruitment, and expansion.