NorthCountry Federal Credit Union works with Green Mountain United Way and Washington County Youth Service Bureau to bring ‘indy’ bank accounts to teens leaving foster care

NorthCountry Federal Credit Union works with Green Mountain United Way and Washington County Youth Service Bureau to bring ‘indy’ bank accounts to teens leaving foster care

Barre, VT – Everyday, Vermont teenagers who have spent time in foster care must transition out in the world – to a world of college, work, and finding a place to live on their own. Without a family support structure, many of those teens, who are now “adults,” struggle to become financially stable because they lack basic access to systems most teens can access through their parents or traditional caregivers.

Green Mountain United Way (GMUW) has partnered with NorthCountry Federal Credit Union (NCFCU) and Washington County’s Youth Services Bureau (YSB) to run a pilot program to open saving accounts for youth that are participating in programs that are run by the YSB. The accounts are flexible, meaning that the appropriate account will be opened based on the individual needs of the youth. Once the youth is 18-years-old they will meet with a banking representative to learn about more banking options, getting them the professional support they need to set them up for success in the next chapter of their lives.

The program was inspired by new GMUW Resource Coordinator, Blaire Haggett. At her first staff meeting, NorthCountry Federal Credit Union introduced their Flexible Pathways checking – a way for people with low or poor credit to get back into the banking world.

“I thought it was so innovative,” Haggett said. “What an amazing idea it was to help people get back on track. It made me wonder if they would be open to the idea of helping minors open bank accounts who do not have a guardian to sign for them.”

Haggett, who formerly worked in a group home for teen girls, says that for many years, she “begged and pleaded” with a variety of banks to create a youth account that did not require a guardian signature.

Because teens coming out of foster care would often need a guardian signature to do basic banking, there was a huge barrier for them to cash checks, save money, keep money safe, and not have to carry large amounts of cash when they were moved from placement to placement. Teens also need to be taught how to navigate the banking system, and partnering with NCFCU makes this possible.

“In the past year, we pivoted nearly all product innovation efforts toward increasing access to financial services for marginalized populations,” said NorthCountry Federal Credit Union CEO Robert Morgan. “We believe that the new Independence accounts are a result of this effort. We can provide youth living in foster care or in a transitional living program an opportunity to learn and become financially self-sufficient. The independence account is a tremendous example of how community groups can come together and work to create a solution for an unmet need. We would like to extend our tremendous gratitude to our partners at the Green Mountain United Way and the Washington County Youth Service Bureau for their help in making this new product a reality.”

This unique partnership allows GMUW and WCYSB to offer not just these immediate solutions but also more long-term personal support through a bank and case manager. This leads to other opportunities, such as financial coaching through Green Mountain United Way’s K.E.E.P. Financial Coaching, scholarship opportunities and more. To learn more or to donate, please visit gmunitedway.org or call 802.613.3989.

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