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Economic Self-Sufficiency

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All families want to achieve economic self-sufficiency, but moving from one rung of the economic ladder to another can be challenging. Interpersonal skills and family stability are crucial to overcoming poverty and chronic unemployment. Holistic programs that simultaneously address relationship skills alongside economic supports are more likely to have success in helping families achieve self-sufficiency, child well-being, and family stability.

Research shows that healthy relationships affect the economic well-being of children, adults, and families in several important ways:
  • Households that include two adults generally have a higher level of economic well-being, while unmarried adults have a lower level of economic well-being. Research shows that both divorce and unmarried childbearing increase the economic vulnerability of both children and mothers, with the effects of family structure on poverty remaining, even after controlling for race and family background.
  • The interpersonal skills that strengthen families are also transferable to the workplace. For example, communication and conflict management skills are the foundation of healthy couple relationships, but they are also important to coworkers who must work in teams, navigate daily challenges, and interact with customers.
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Visit our Library for more free related and family-related resources in variety of formats. View library resources on economic self-sufficiency or use the search field to find information on a particular topic.

Spotlight on Integration: Economic Self-Sufficiency Services (PDF, 318 KB) is a Resource Center tip sheet that compiles lessons learned about overcoming challenges and forming partnerships from two stakeholders that have successfully integrated healthy marriage and relationship education in order to promote economic self-sufficiency.

Opportunities for Collaboration Across Human Services Programs (link is external) (PDF, 341 KB) is a paper from the American Public Human Services Association that provides a concise overview of the major human service programs administered at the State and Local level and discusses the interdependence of those programs, their common goals, and the ways in which those programs might work together. This paper is a good introduction for service providers who are new to working with human service organizations.

Browse our Archived Webinars to see presentations from experts in the field on a variety of topics relating to youth and family services.

Expand an item below to view information on specific topics related to economic self-sufficiency.

Asset Building and Financial Management

Building and properly managing assets—such as savings, a car, and a home—is a proven strategy for moving families from poverty to economic self-sufficiency. Healthy marriage and relationship education includes critical skills like financial management that set the foundation for healthy family financial decisions.

We offer several free Resource Center products and publications that are designed for service providers looking for resources on asset building and financial management:

Strategies for Helping Couples Build and Manage Assets (PDF, 296 KB) is a tip sheet that highlights some of the mechanisms that low- and moderate-income couples can use to build assets and begin the journey to becoming debt free.

If you are a service provider working with families, consider our free online Financial Management course, part of the Core Healthy Marriage and Relationship Skills series in our Virtual Training Center.  This course uses an “inside-out” approach to help you learn techniques and ideas that you can share with clients who want to strengthen their parenting skills.

Healthy Relationships and Financial Management--What's the Connection? is a webinar that discusses why financial management is a critical healthy marriage and relationship skill; explores useful tools and resources to help clients build assets and increase financial literacy; and discusses ways to help clients use these tools to increase self-sufficiency and strengthen relationships.

Additional Resources is the U.S. government's website dedicated to teaching all Americans the five building blocks for managing and growing your money. The website offers tips and easy to use tools focused on helping individuals and families Spend, Earn, Protect, Borrow and Save & Invest. The site offers fun calculators as well as downloadable budget templates and other tools that can be integrated into efforts to improve family financial literacy.

Assets for Independence (AFI) is a Federal asset building initiative that enables community-based programs, non-profits, and government agencies to implement and demonstrate an assets-based approach for giving low-income families a hand up out of poverty. AFI programs include promotions of Earned Income Tax Credits (EITC) along Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) sites that help families maximize tax refunds and Individual Development Accounts (IDA), which offer families matched savings programs to encourage home ownership, secondary education, or starting a business.  

A Must-Have Financial Priorities Checklist for Married Couples is a checklist from Black Enterprise, the premier business, investing, and wealth-building resource for African Americans, that offers a list of the top items that married couples should discuss during monthly "money meetings" to establish and maintain financial priorities.

Child Support Services

Child support services ensure that custodial and non-custodial parents share the coordination, responsibilities, and support for their children. Child support is necessary for the well-being of the child when there is a breakdown in the parents’ relationship. Unfortunately, this discord between parents often negatively impacts or severs the relationship between the children and one or both parents. Strengthening healthy relationship skills, such as communication, conflict management, and parenting, is an important way to improve the situation for the entire family.

Listed below are several free products and publications that are designed for service providers looking for resources on relationship education and child support:

A Win-Win Partnership: How Child Support Enforcement Can Benefit from Healthy Marriage and Relationship Education (PDF, 287 KB) is a Resource Center tip sheet that discusses the common goals shared by the national Child Support Enforcement (CSE) Program and healthy marriage and relationship education. It also provides suggestions and resources on how to integrate relationship education into CSE services in order to facilitate the agency’s promotion of healthy family relationships.

See the Resource Center’s information on children and youth to learn more about free resources and strategies that can be shared with clients who want to strengthen their parenting and co-parenting skills.

Additional Resources

The Office of Child Support Enforcement provides free resources and training materials for service providers on child support issues. Materials highlight  family-centered strategies and customer-focused resources to help parents support their children. Topics covered also include domestic violence, military and veterans, and Hispanic outreach, among others.

The Power of Two (Establishing Parentage) is a video from the Vermont Department for Children and Families provides information on parents establishing parentage and the importance of both parents supporting their child.



Children and families working towards economic self-sufficiency often lack safe and stable housing.  This instability can have tragic consequences because many current housing interventions do not—and cannot— respond effectively to the stresses that these couples and families face. For example:

  • Many family shelters do not accept men, meaning couples are forced to separate. Similarly, unmarried couples are often not housed together in shelters.
  • While structural issues such as lack of affordable housing or unemployment can be at the root of housing instability, physical or mental health, substance abuse, and domestic violence are often a cause as well. These factors place enormous strain on families and children.
  • Adult couples with children who become homeless often place their children with relatives or friends or find their children placed in foster care.

Integrating healthy marriage and relationship education into existing housing services can help give families and couples the tools and skills they need as they work towards a safe and permanent housing situation.

We offer several free products and publications that are designed for service providers looking for resources on relationship education and housing:

Working with Homeless Couples (PDF, 440 KB) is a Resource Center tip sheet that increases awareness of the complex challenges faced by homeless individuals, couples, and families, and offers tips for safety-net service providers who are working to help them achieve self-sufficiency.

See our information on health and mental health to learn more about free resources and strategies that you can share with clients who are struggling with some of the challenges associated with housing instability.

Additional Resources

The Federal Office of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) provides housing for low-income families throughout the US in partnership with State and Local housing authorities. Through their Family Self-Sufficiency Program, HUD is working to expand the services they provide public housing residents, including case management, financial literacy, credit repair, and incentivized asset building strategies. Relationship education skills are a strong fit with these programs and can be integrated seamlessly into existing service offerings.

Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)

TANF programs provide temporary assistance for needy families; the program goals include encouraging the formation and maintenance of two-parent families in recognition that two-parent families are less likely to be needy ones. The Office of Family Assistance offers resources and information related to the Federal TANF program. Healthy marriage and relationship education have been integrated into several TANF delivery systems in innovative ways that promote TANF's goals.

We offer several free products and publications that are designed for service providers looking for resources on integrating TANF and relationship education:

Integrating Healthy Marriage Education Into TANF Programs (Tip Sheet) provides information on how and why marriage and relationship education can be integrated into TANF programs to address the needs of economically disadvantaged families.

Integrating Health Marriage Education Into TANF Programs (Research Brief) discusses the research related to unwed childbirth, marriage, and relationship education, and then points to promising practices for the integration of healthy marriage and relationship education into TANF as part of a comprehensive approach to addressing poverty.

Workforce Development

Securing and maintaining steady employment is crucial to families achieving economic self-sufficiency.  Research shows that employees who have stable and healthy personal relationships at home are the most productive at work.  Healthy relationship skills—such as communication, conflict resolution, parenting, and financial literacy—are as relevant in the office as they are at home.  Helping employees build life skills both improves relationships and interpersonal dynamics in the workplace and strengthens relationships among family members, which reduces employee stress and improves work performance.  Many employers have found that programs promoting healthy relationship skills are a valuable and cost-effective addition to their employee assistance programs. 

We offer several free Resource Center products and publications that are designed for service providers looking for resources on relationship education and the workplace:

Improving Employment Outcomes: Healthy Relationship Skills Matter is a webinar that explains why interpersonal skills, such as communication and conflict management, are as important in the workplace as they are in family relationships. This webinar focuses on helping individuals to build life skills that are important for: 1) strengthening family relationships, which reduces stress and improves work performance; and 2) improving relationships and interpersonal dynamics at work.

Promoting Healthy Relationship Skills for Employees: A Guide for Workforce Professionals is a guide that

  • addresses the importance of promoting healthy family and marital relationships as an effective strategy to improve interpersonal relationships and productivity in the workplace;
  • focuses on specific steps employers can take to support employees, enhance their interpersonal skills, and reduce family stress by improving coping skills; and
  • highlights promising practices of leading American companies that recognize the importance of investing in healthy relationships for both hourly workers and full-time staff.

Making It Work: How Relationship Skills Support Economic Self-Sufficiency is a webinar that explores how integrating healthy marriage and relationship education skills can lead to more stable employment for individuals and more productive workplaces for employers.