Assessing the Problem
Unfortunately a family's financial situation is not a domain that is commonly assessed (Dakin & Wampler, 2008). In addition to mental health and parenting needs, a family may also have stress related to lack of resources (such as transportation, health care, or child care). When working with families the following multiple levels of assessment should be covered in the initial interview:
- Level of financial strain- how isthe family experiencing the economic downturn?
- Mental health- how has the previous description of financial strain affected each family member's (adults and children) levels of stress, anxiety, confidence, and depression
- Behavior issues- academic issues, negative activities and peer groups in children and adolescents
- Couples and marriage- how does the couple manage financial stress?
- Parent/child relationships- assess parenting practices, parental outlook
- Family/community- what are this family's resources? Social support? Community resources? Is there blame being placed on a specific event or person?
Although you may not be savvy enough to help your clients create an extensive financial plan that covers the six major components, you can help clients assess their current financial state and begin to organize their spending and saving behaviors. Before you attempt the following with your clients, we encourage you to try the techniques using your own finances. This will give you the chance to practice the skills before you teach them.
Journal- How might some of the reported symptoms of family distress be related to the family's financial situation?