Bringing Attention to Financial Capability in Human Services Programs

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Publication Date
April 29, 2015

Ed. Note: This blog originally appeared on the ACF Family Room Blog. Read the original post here

On April 27, we sent a letter to state Human Services Commissioners and Secretaries encouraging them to explore the potential for bringing greater attention to addressing financial capability in human services programs.

Financial capability is a term that encompasses having the knowledge, skills, and access to financial products to manage financial resources effectively.  While managing financial resources effectively can be an issue for any family, low income families face additional challenges.

Research from the U.S. Financial Diaries project reveals that low-income families often deal with inconsistent and unpredictable incomes, making it very difficult to plan and save for unexpected expenses.1 According to the Corporation for Enterprise Development, 44 percent of American households, and 78 percent of very low income households, do not have enough savings to sustain themselves for three months at the poverty level.2  

At the Administration for Children and Families, we believe that incorporating stronger attention to strengthening financial capability can help families succeed economically, and can help human services programs better accomplish their goals. So, in connection with National Financial Capability Month, ACF programs have been issuing notices to a broad range of ACF-supported programs to highlight the importance of financial capability and to encourage programs to consider how they can structure their services and activities to strengthen financial capability among the populations they serve. And, we’re encouraging Human Services Secretaries and Commissioners to consider how they might bring such attention to their work in TANF, child support, child support, and across the range of human services programs.  We’re suggesting that state agencies might

  • Form a working group to review Creating Financially Capable Communities: A Resource Guide,3 which was created by the President’s Advisory Council on Financial Capability to support the financial capability efforts of leaders in states, tribes, and local governments, and ACF’s new Building Financial Capability: A Planning Guide for Integrated Services4 and develop a plan for how your state can integrate financial capability into human services programs.
  • Prepare front-line staff for conversations on financial capability through training on the Your Money, Your Goals toolkit5 created by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).
  • Include information on financial capability tools and services in program outreach and application processes.  For example, program applicants and recipients could be provided with information on the earned income tax credit and the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program along with a list of VITA sites in your state.

We hope that our resource materials will spur additional exploration of such efforts in states and communities, and we’d welcome hearing and sharing information about promising state and local efforts.

Mark Greenberg, Acting Assistant Secretary, Administration for Children and Families 

1Morduch, J. and Schneider, R. (October 2013). Spikes and Dips: How Income Uncertainty Affects Households. Available online at

2Brooks, J., Wiedrich, K., Sims, L. and Rice, S. (January 2015) Excluded from the Financial Mainstream: How the Economic Recovery is Bypassing Millions of Americans.  Available online at

3Available online at More information about the President’s Advisory Council on Financial Capability can be found at

4Available online at

5For more information, see