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In Florida’s Domestic Violence Shelters, We Helped Build Financial Freedom
Posted by Laura McLoughlin on March 25, 2022 in categoryStories from the Field

Ten years ago, Dollar General Literacy Foundation and ProLiteracy partnered on the Expanding Access program with the idea that we could reach more adults in need of literacy services if we met them where they already were—at social service agencies. 

As Expanding Access draws to a close this spring, we take this opportunity to reflect on the initiative and what frameworks we can build on to continue reaching adult learners into the future. Our new Understanding Finance and Money student course, for example, was modeled on our Expanding Access efforts with Florida’s domestic violence network. 

Because domestic violence abusers often use finances to control their victims, shelters in the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence began offering survivors the Allstate Foundation Moving Ahead Curriculum to teach survivors how to take control of their finances. 

In early 2015, ProLiteracy got funding from Dollar General to take the Expanding Access program to domestic violence shelters in Florida. We went to Peace River, in Lakeland; Shelter for Abused Women and Children, in Immokalee; and Shelter House, in Fort Walton Beach where they were using the AllState Financial Freedom curriculum. While the curriculum was great, it was written at a level that was too high, leaving many domestic abuse survivors unable to take advantage of the program. In response, Expanding Access did two things: 

  1. Trained those presenting the AllState curriculum on some basic techniques for teaching vocabulary and reading comprehension so that when they presented survivors with vocabulary or reading content, they could do it in a way that made it easier to understand 
  2. Started a remedial class to introduce clients to money concepts while practicing reading comprehension skills so they could then advance to the AllState curriculum 

We implemented this at the three programs and then, with a model to work from, we were able to take it to 29 of the state’s 42 shelters in 2016. 

In the first year of the expansion, ProLiteracy staff traveled to Florida several times to train economic empowerment advocates to deliver instruction, select appropriate materials, recruit survivors for the course, and more. Once the financial literacy courses were in place, we spent the next year training the advocates to expand their offerings to include workforce preparation. 

Since 2018, we have worked with shelters to offer training on plain language so they can create webpages and informational brochures that all domestic abuse survivors can find accessible, so they can get the help they need. 

The success we had in Florida is such a beacon for the Expanding Access program. Thank you to Dollar General for the support and the means to provide practical education that truly makes a difference in the lives of survivors of domestic violence. Using our work in Florida as the launching pad, we are able to continue offering assistance through the online Understanding Finance and Money course, which social service agencies nationwide will be able to share with clients. 

 





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