Panel Paper: Implementation of Financial Empowerment Programs: The Role of Advocates

Thursday, November 6, 2014 : 3:05 PM
Taos (Convention Center)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Elithet Silva-Martinez, University of Puerto Rico and Fran S. Danis, University of Texas, Arlington
Background & Significance: This paper examines the role of intimate partner violence (IPV) agency staff in implementing the financial empowerment program entitled, “Moving Ahead Through Financial Management”.  The program provides financial literacy training for IPV survivors that acknowledge the role of economic abuse in their lives.  The program was conducted at traditional IPV agencies by program staff referred to as “advocates.”  This study sought to understand the role of advocates in implementing the program. Financial empowerment/literacy programming is a relatively new service for traditional IPV programs.  Information gathered through this research also helps identify best practices for program incorporation into an already overworked environment. 

Methodology: Researchers conducted face-to-face interviews with advocates using an open-ended question guide. To insure uniformity across interviews, researchers were trained on the content of the questions and the interviewing process. All interviews were audio-taped, transcribed, and interviews conducted in Spanish were translated into English. The transcripts were then imported into Atlas.ti software package.  Data were analyzed using a line-by-line coding, condensed into categories and eventually into main themes.  To maintain rigor a team of researchers discussed the coding, categorization, and thematic process.

Instrument:  The interview guide included questions on implementing the curriculum, its strengths, limitations and areas for improvement, strengths and limitations in using groups vs. individual sessions, organizational support received during the implementation phase, recommendations for integration of the curriculum into community-based IPV programs, and the impact of the curriculum on the advocates themselves.

Findings: Data were collected from 24 advocates from seven states and Puerto Rico. A total of 39 groups were conducted; English only (48.7%), Spanish only (28.2%), bilingual Spanish and English (15.4%) and bilingual English & Bengali (7.7%).  Advocates had an average of seven years in the IPV field and 92% had either a college or graduate degree. Advocates overwhelmingly reported that the curriculum was beneficial for IPV survivors; especially modules addressing economic abuse, safety planning, budgeting, credit and debit cards, and banking in general.  Concerns centered on the difficulties of women in poverty to achieve economic stability when they were still experiencing economic abuse.  Both group and individual sessions were deemed necessary. Recommendations for program improvement included reorganizing the curriculum into immediate versus long-term financial needs. Organizational support was inconsistent; some agencies provided tangible support such as food, materials, equipment and childcare or extra staff.  A number of strategies for inclusion of this material into traditional services were offered.  Advocates stressed the need to adapt curricula to match language barriers, migration status, and cultural differences.  Given the large number of immigrant women participating, advocates recommended specialized content on immigration issues.  There were also positive unintended consequences of teaching the curriculum for advocates. By applying the material to their own circumstances, advocates were able to increase their own financial literacy and personal resources. Thus, teaching the curriculum had a transformative effect on individual advocates.