Travis Credit Union has helped to make sure money matters to Solano County's foster youth.
The Vacaville, Calif.-based credit union has teamed up with Solano County Health and Social Services, CASA of Solano County, the United Way of the Bay Area and First Place for Youth and Alternative Family Services to launch the "Money Matters" program.
The program provides financial literacy education, custodial accounts and personal financial mentors for foster children between the ages of 15 to 17. The project is part of Solano County's "California Connected by 25" initiative, an effort in eight California counties funded by the Walter S. Johnson Foundation, to help public child welfare agencies and their communities build a comprehensive system of support and services for youth leaving the foster care system. The goal is to connect foster youth by age 25 to opportunities, experiences and support that will help them to succeed as independent adults.
With a 55% high school dropout rate among foster youth and 25% homeless rate of former foster youth nationally, Maria Moses, former executive director of Solano County CASA and co-chair of the financial literacy committee, said there's never been a better time to help kids build their financial IQ.
"It first came to my attention that foster youth needed assistance with financial issues when I took a young lady to speak at a foster parent training event and she asked the organizer to make her speaker's payment check out to me so that she wouldn't have to give a portion of it to a check cashing agency," said Moses. "When I asked other foster youth about their check cashing experiences, it saddened me that most of them had adverse experiences with cashing checks made out to them and had no bank of their own. I decided that we could do better as a community and system and the Solano Connected by 25 Initiative gave us the vehicle to do so."
Upon learning about the initiative, Travis CU stepped in to offer its help. The Youth Action Team, a group of youth who are either in foster care or recently emancipated from foster care and advise child welfare services on foster youth issues, worked with the county and the $1.6 billion credit union to provide feedback on the Money Matters program.
"We found that we could help the program partners work more collaboratively and implement a program faster," said Travis CU President/CEO Patsy Van Ouwerkerk. "We share their belief that if we can better transition foster youth, our communities will be healthier. We also believe this initiative is a perfect fit with Travis Credit Union's ongoing commitment to financial education and our strategic priority to build active and supportive community partnerships."
Under the program, foster youth will attend a five-session, 15-hour financial education class. To promote attendance, youth will have the chance at the final session to win another tool to track their finances-a laptop computer. Upon completing their sessions, they will open a Travis Credit Union custodial savings account.
"Foster youth don't have a parent to open a savings account for them," said Solano County Child Welfare Director Linda Orrante. "By opening the account in the youth's own name, it's a hands-on way for them to experience banking. We appreciate the work Travis Credit Union is doing to help these teens make the transition to young adulthood."
The accounts will have ATM withdrawal access with a $100 withdrawal limit per day. The new members can deposit paychecks via direct deposit, ATM or at a branch. Six months prior to court emancipation or prior to the minor turning 18, the county representative will notify him or her that the account must be changed to an adult account. Travis CU will then provide an optional financial mentor and help open a regular Travis CU account when the member becomes a legal adult.
In addition, Travis CU and the Solano County Office of Education will provide a special certificate that will be endorsed by the County Superintendent of Schools and the District will list the standards met to further shine a spotlight on the students' achievements.
"It's a need that no one addressed in this amount of detail before," said Van Ouwerkerk, who sees this opportunity as something that can pave the way for other credit unions across the country to model.