Three things move people out of poverty: a job that pays a living wage, education/training, and a trusting relationship of mutual respect. The approach of our Economic Self-sufficiency Program (ES), which incorporates these three factors, was recently reviewed by an independent consultant using data collected over the last 20 years.
The ES program grew out of our emergency services programs; we wanted to help people move out of poverty for good, not just cope and get by between emergencies. Since starting ES at BCOC, we have learned what it takes to move people from poverty to self-sufficiency. But we wanted to learn more about our graduates, and what is and isn’t working in our program, so we recently commissioned an outside review.
The ES program at BCOC works with motivated adults who have been living from crisis to crisis, paycheck to paycheck, and want support to strategize a better, long-term future story. We like to say “when they are ready to commit to the program, we are here to help.”
The assessment of our ES program was conducted by Don Dailey, Ph.D. Dr. Dailey studied program evaluation at Vanderbilt University, was a Senior Research Scientist at the American Institutes for Research in Washington, D. C., and has taught college courses on community-based research, education policy, and poverty. Dr. Dailey analyzed data collected for over 20 years in our Client to Success (CTS) data base, interviewed ES coaches and graduates, and reviewed program related documents.
To date, 313 families have moved out of poverty through ES, and we will be celebrating additional graduates in October with a formal graduation ceremony. A client “graduates” when he or she is employed; free of all subsidies (food stamps, cash assistance, housing subsidies); has a balanced household budget; resides in safe, affordable housing; has reliable transportation; a checking and savings account; an acceptable credit rating or approved Credit Repair Plan; health insurance coverage for all family members; completed their education/training program; and learned basic employment skills (for example, interviewing skills and resume preparation).
Key findings of Dr. Dailey’s assessment are:
- For 82% of our graduates, the path toward self-sufficiency included starting an education/training program.
- All graduates are employed. Many are trained for health care positions, such as RNs LPNs, CNAs, medical assistants; others pursue careers as customer service reps, information technology specialists, chefs, for example.
- Upon entering our ES program, clients’ average starting income was $11,099. Over the years of analysis, the exiting average income grew to $38,335. Remarkably, that exit income average grew to $46,322 for our 2016 graduates.
- The average length of time for graduates in the program is three years.
- The majority of ES graduates are single women with children. (464 children have benefitted from ES as their parents graduate and break the cycle of poverty, showing them a future story with more opportunities.) Other extended family have also benefitted and started their own path toward self-sufficiency, bringing the total people in households positively affected to 845.
- The majority of clients enter the program on welfare, that percentage growing to 77% in 2016. When they graduate, that number is 0%. (Being off subsidies is one of the requirements for graduation.)
- Most of the clients come to us because of an emergency, and it is not usual for clients to return again and again as new emergencies occur. But for those who commit to a long-term solution and graduate from the ES program, 83% leave poverty permanently. Only 17% need additional support over time.
- The community impact of the ES program is significant. For the 161 clients who entered the ES program with subsidies, there is a savings of approximately $75,000 over five years—the average time clients receive subsidies. This savings can be estimated at $12 million dollars over the course of the last 20 years.
- There is a 4.60 to 1 return on investment in ES.
Coaches who regularly meet one-on-one with each client play a critical role in a client’s success. They are experts at building a meaningful, trusting relationship that includes advising; connecting clients to resources, educational opportunities, jobs, and other agencies; advocating in an emergency to help the client remain stable; and encouraging them to stay the course.
In the conclusion of his report, Dr. Dailey stated that “there is evidence that when clients are motivated and helped with a structured set of support and resources as manifested through ES, lives are changed. People are moved out of poverty.”
We agree! We see lives changing every day. Our goal now is to grow this program to help more families in need in Bucks County.
To access Dr. Dailey’s full report, click bcoc ES Final Report 9-19-2018