Mother’s Day 2019
Published May 12, 2019
Editor’s Note: This article was first published on the First Nations website: Used with permission. All rights reserved.
On this Mother’s Day, I think about all those who are providing caregiving for others as mothers, aunts, sisters, grandmothers, great-grandmothers, guardians, etc. As a mother, I am grateful for the opportunity to nurture my daughter. She is such a joy! On this day, I am also very grateful to my mother, my other relatives, and all the other women who have also nurtured me along the way.
Today, as on most every other day, I also think about all the families I am blessed to work with through my role as the Executive Director of the Oklahoma Native Assets Coalition, Inc. (ONAC). Our Native-led asset building coalition serves hundreds of Native families, from various tribes, as they build their assets through financial education, Children’s Savings Accounts, family emergency savings account, foreclosure prevention, and Voluntary Income Tax Assistance programs, which ONAC supports.
Just as I try to take care of my responsibilities each day, all the mothers, fathers and other guardians ONAC works with are doing their best to take care of their own families. As a mother to a younger child, I understand what a relief a parent/caregiver can feel when they open a college savings account to save money for their children’s future. We all want the best for our kids and knowing that we have completed a 529 college savings account application and that such an account is open and funded starts to help us think differently about children’s future. As account owners of Children’s Savings Accounts for the benefit of our children, we can be more hopeful and able to share more positive expectations that we think our children will graduate from college or a trade school of their choice.
I am blessed to be at ONAC Children’s Savings Account opening events and witness the pride on the youth’s faces when they know they have a college savings account in their name. It is inspiring to see twenty-something-year-old moms and dads with infants at our events who are excited to get started right away by opening an account for their baby. We have also had 75-year-old great-grandmothers attend ONAC events, who are now taking care of their great-grandchildren, knowing that they may likely not live long enough to see their younger great-grandchildren reach adulthood, but who are determined to jumpstart their college savings.
These families are trying to build assets for their young ones. When asked if they plan to deposit more money into the accounts, we have mothers replying, “yes, our whole family wants to make donations for his future.” At a recent account opening event, one mom shared, “learning about this Children’s Savings Account program has been such an eye-opener. My son’s future means everything to me and this has helped me gain a new perspective on his education.”
ONAC’s Children’s Savings Accounts help build the assets of Native women and their children living in rural tribal communities. At our account opening events, we find that 86% of the account owners for the Children’s Savings Accounts and the family emergency savings accounts are mothers, aunts and grandmothers raising their families. 87% of the families ONAC serves through these programs are living at 200% or below the federal poverty level. While we also provide account funding for Native families in larger metropolitan areas for the Children’s Savings Account program, given that we are partnering with tribes with tribal seats of government in rural Oklahoma, 99% of the Children’s Savings Accounts have been opened for families living in small towns throughout Oklahoma.
Why does ONAC care about working with Native families to open Children’s Savings Accounts and providing the $100 opening account deposit per account? From national research, we know that instilling young people with the habit of saving is proven to have long-term benefits. In The College Savings Initiative, a joint project between the Center for Social Development at Washington University in St. Louis and the New America Foundation in Washington, D.C., researchers found that “in multivariate analysis, youth who expect to graduate from a four-year college and have an account are about seven times more likely to attend college than youth who expect to graduate from a four-year college but do not have an account.” (1) According to the American Indian College Fund, “only 14% of American Indians have a college degree – less than half the national average.” (2) ONAC believes that Children’s Savings Accounts can help create a pipeline for Native youth to college by helping the youth think positively about their future and their college plans. These accounts help women to build the assets of their families.
As we celebrate Mother’s Day and I think of all of those who are helping to support Native asset-building programs in our communities, I wish to thank ONAC’s board and advisory members, funders, advocates, and tribal and Native-led nonprofit outreach partners (the majority of all these partners are women). This work could not be done without you. The families ONAC works with are grateful for these asset-building program opportunities, as they are not otherwise available to them. Just as it takes a number of community members to raise a child, it takes lots of partners to build assets in Indian Country. We appreciate all those supporting Native asset-building efforts and wish you all a Happy Mother’s Day!
1) Elliott, W. and Beverly, S. (2010). The Role of Savings and Wealth in Reducing “Wilt” between Expectations and College Attendance. Journal of Children & Poverty, 17(2), 165-185. Also available at https://csd.wustl.edu/Publications/Documents/WP10-01.pdf.
2) Our Work. American Indian College Fund, accessed April 19, 2019, at https://collegefund.org/ourwork-2/.
Christy Finsel, MA, MSW (Osage) is the executive director of the Oklahoma Native Assets Coalition, Inc. (ONAC) in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.