The Brilliant Baby program, part of Oakland Promise, is designed to help eligible families set an intention around their infants' college future, by starting a college fund with a donated $500 deposit. This fund will be maintained in trust. In addition, parents can also elect to receive free financial coaching sessions, which come with a $500 incentive that families can use as they wish. The program connects 23 traditional provider agencies, who refer and enroll the eligible families, with certified financial coaches.
Saundra Davis is a financial planning expert who trains financial coaches, with a special emphasis on preparing coaches to work effectively with clients who have significant financial struggles. In her field, many financial coaches believe there is no work that can be done until a client has achieved basic financial stability. But Saundra believes that financial planning is a tool that can empower struggling clients to navigate toward that initial financial stability. Her approach to training her financial coaches emphasizes this goal, by prioritizing building community and connection as essential first steps in the coaching relationship.
With this goal in mind, Saundra is working with ACEs Connection to provide trauma-informed practice and resilience building education as part of SAGE coaching training. Financial coaches are interested in learning more about a trauma-informed framework. Coaches quickly recognize that some of the hesitance families feel about engaging and persisting with the program, could be addressed through trauma-healing strategies.
On March 27, Brilliant Baby brought together providers and financial coaches for a half-day Implementing Partners retreat. The retreat was an opportunity for provider agencies and financial coaches to meet and learn from one another, how to both increase participation, program persistence, and identify a broad range of supports for young, low-income families. I was also able to share a little about ACEs Connection, in addition to learning how the Brilliant Baby program is a perfect example of building resilience in communities, family by family. For example, participating families receive a financial statement so that they can track the progress of their child's college fund. But it is a very unique financial statement: It includes tips on supporting healthy child development. In the fall, families will be invited to a gathering at Oakland's Fairyland, to connect and celebrate their journey.
In an email, program director Amanda Feinstein stated: "We are very interested in always continuing to improve the Brilliant Baby program. Integrating thoughtful ways to support parents, caregivers and children who have experienced trauma is certainly an important piece of this."
Amanda also shared that: "We now have 180 babies with college savings accounts in our program, and the majority of parents are taking us up on the offer of financial coaching." With financial coaching, families can feel more empowered to set the direction of their child's future.
More information about Brilliant Baby can be found in the attached program profile, including how the program takes an approach that is explicitly focused on addressing the "social determinants of healthy development."