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LOS ANGELES – ByDesign Financial Solutions has launched a unique financial educational program for young adults who are about to be emancipated from the foster care system. The Financial Firsts program, which consists of five two-hour interactive workshops, is offered as part of county-run Independent Living Skills programs, which many foster youth attend prior to leaving their foster homes. Curriculum covers checking account and credit card management, resume and job interview skills, and automobile purchasing. “So many experiences young adults have when they leave home are interrelated to credit . their first car, first job, first bank account, first unsecured credit . so to teach them about those things not only helps them, it helps financial institutions and the entire community,” said Martha Lucey, executive vice president. ByDesign, formerly known as Consumer Credit Counseling of Los Angeles, provides financial counseling and education services in the California cities of Los Angeles, Sacramento, Stockton and Fresno. While not exclusive to credit unions, the organization has credit unions of all sizes on its client list, and has three credit union professionals on its board of directors: chairman Colleen Sloan, retired vice president from SAFE Credit Union, Jacque Lucero, vice president of operations at State Center Credit Union, and Rita Fillingane of the California Credit Union League. “When we initially discussed developing the product, we thought it was a great retail product. We started talking about it to our board, and they said, `you know who really needs this education? Foster kids,’” Lucey said. Statistics that track what happens to foster kids in adulthood are grim. According to research quoted by ByDesign, more than half of all emancipated foster youth end up unemployed. Forty percent go on unemployment and 40% of all homeless youth in Los Angeles County are former foster children. Lucey said board members gained financial support quickly, including a $50,000 donation from the MCI Foundation, and donations from 13 credit unions. In addition, Sloan recruited her former employer, the Sacramento-based SAFE Credit Union, to sponsor a golf tournament that cleared $23,000 for the project. So far, ByDesign has raised $100,000 for the program, which will pay for 1,000 foster kids to participate in the program this year. The Financial Firsts program is only one of ByDesign’s planned financial education programs for youth. The organization will be offering the program in partnership with the California Credit Union League this summer. “The Financial First program is a perfect fit for credit unions, as we are committed to helping people (our members) improve their financial well-being. To have the ability to help reach students and provide them guidance with their (first) financial products and purchases is what credit unions are all about,” Sloan said. Lucey agrees, “We have been thinking about how to better serve the needs of youth for awhile. We’ve been seeing clients coming in for credit counseling in their early 20s. Kids really don’t get a lot of education in the school system, so in many cases, they just have to learn from experience. We thought if we could come up with a program to help them learn these lessons without making mistakes, they would be so much better off,” Lucey said. CCUL members can offer ByDesign young adult education through planned “train the trainer” courses, or by using one of the organization’s credit counselors. Financial education courses provide credit unions with the opportunity to recruit young members, often through contact with parents and grandparents, Lucey said. -

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