|Initiative Helps Local Foster Care Youth Build Financial Skills, Assets|
|Posted:||May 15, 2012|
|Details:|| (Photos from Opportunity Passport can be seen by clicking here.)|
Eight local young people are boosting their personal money smarts—and their bank accounts—thanks to an initiative of the Community Foundation of Greater Dubuque, supported by Four Oaks and Dupaco Community Credit Union.
Based on a national model created by the Jim Casey Opportunities Initiative, the Opportunity Passport program is aimed at teaching youth aging out of foster care the financial management skills they need to achieve personal success.
Youth in foster care often lack mentors to teach them money management skills. As a result, they frequently exit the foster care program without basic financial and asset development skills.
The local program, open to Dubuque County youth ages 16 to 24 who have been in foster care since age 14, features a matched savings account for each participant to help them save money for assets while learning personal financial management skills. The savings accounts and financial coaching are provided by Dupaco. Four Oaks recruits and determines the eligibility of the Opportunity Passport participants.
Once chosen for the program, participants must successfully complete 10 hours of financial literacy training with Dupaco and make a plan and commitment to save for an approved asset. After participants meet the program's training requirements, Opportunity Passport deposits $100 into their matched savings accounts.
As long as a participant stays active in the program—by meeting with program advisors on a regular basis—the Community Foundation of Greater Dubuque matches the savings account dollar for dollar up to $1,000 per year for approved expenses, such as buying a computer for school or paying for tuition.
The most recent Opportunity Passport class completed its coursework in April and opened matched savings accounts through Dupaco.
The credit union coordinates activities, facilitates the hands-on financial instruction, and opens participant accounts. Dupaco employees also maintain contact and ensure participants receive ongoing financial coaching and guidance after the conclusion of the program.
Most participants are working toward the goal of purchasing a vehicle to travel to work or school. They can stay in the program until age 24 and match up to $1,000 per year for purchase of additional approved assets.
"Young people aging out of foster care are at a significant disadvantage when it comes to learning how to manage their money," says Eric Dregne, vice president of programs at the Community Foundation of Greater Dubuque. "Opportunity Passport teaches skills that make a real difference in these kids' lives; the Community Foundation is proud to partner with Dupaco on such a great program."
Dupaco's Deb Schroeder, who conducted much of the recent session's financial instruction, said the Opportunity Passport program aligns snugly with Dupaco's belief in the power of education and information put to practical use.
"As a credit union, Dupaco maintains a tradition of service and a philosophy of self-help, which is an important part of our mission" said Schroeder, Dupaco assistant vice president of business partner services. "It's always fulfilling to see the participants' confidence grow throughout the program as they learn to save, budget and set goals."
Since Dubuque's Opportunity Passport program began in 2008, it has helped nearly 40 young people to connect to mainstream banking and acquire real world experience with savings. Those interested in supporting this program may donate to the Opportunity Passport Fund at the Community Foundation of Greater Dubuque by visiting www.dbqfoundation.org (click Give Now) or calling (563) 588-2700.
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