Life Skills Literacy: An Intervention Model to Alleviate Family Poverty

By Johnson, Lee N.; Carswell, Andrew T. et al. | Journal of Family and Consumer Sciences, November 2005 | Go to article overview

Life Skills Literacy: An Intervention Model to Alleviate Family Poverty


Johnson, Lee N., Carswell, Andrew T., Palmer, Lance, Sweaney, Anne L., et al., Journal of Family and Consumer Sciences


Life Skills Literacy (LSL) is a multidisciplinary intervention model that helps families living with limited resources (including poverty) achieve sustainable wellbeing. This model, based on ecological theory and a readiness for change framework, prepares people to learn from the program and teaches necessary life skills. The LSL project integrates services from counseling, nutrition and health, housing family finances, and child and family development while addressing environmental health issues. To remedy problems with accessibility of services, services are provided in families' homes. Service providers create development plans based on families' needs and areas in which change is likely to occur.

The Life Skills Literacy (LSL) project operates through a multidisciplinary team comprised of family counselors, housing and financial counselors, nutrition counselors, and environmental health consultants who provide home-based services to help families living with limited resources (including poverty) achieve sustainable well-being. Anticipated overall outcomes from this project include: improved physical and mental health; higher financial status; fewer missed work and school days; improved grades; fewer doctor visits for routine health problems; better access to healthcare for long-term problems; and in general, increased human capital among individuals, families, and communities. (See Figure 1.)

Poverty is a growing national and regional concern with many dimensions. In the U. S., 7.6 million (10%) families and 12.5% of the total population live in poverty (DeNavas-Walt, Proctor, & Mills, 2004). In Georgia, 12.3% of the population lives in poverty (U. S. Census Bureau, 2003). Poverty is a multifaceted problem that often involves a lack of financial resources (Braun, Lawrence, Dyk, & Vandergriff-Avery, 2002); difficult housing situations (Evans, 2004; Shlay, 1993); limited knowledge about nutrition (Tanner & Finn-Stevenson, 2002); increased stress and family problems (Evans, 2004; McLoyd, 1998); delays in children's development (Duncan, Brooks-Gunn, & Klebanov, 1994); a feeling of loss of control (Lachman & Weaver, 1998; Rubin, 1976); higher rates of mental disorders (Belle, 1990); physical health problems (Adler et al., 1994) and environmental health issues (Evans, 2004; Lewis & Causer, 2003). These problems are often more pronounced for women and children (Belle, 1990), and have serious long term implications for families and children (McLoyd, 1998).

Many quality programs and services addressing the eradication of poverty exist, yet there is still a need for innovative holistic ways of addressing the problem. Some of the existing programs have helped families deal with poverty (America Saves, 2004; Dollahite & Scott-Pierce, 2003; Jones, 1996; McKenna, Owen, & Blansett, 2001; Rupured, Koonce, & Bales, 2002; Torretta, 2003, 2004; Viegas & Betterley, 1998). Despite these efforts, poverty rates in regions of the U. S. tend to either remain constant or they increase (DeNavas-Walt et al., 2004; McLoyd, 1998). Existing programs are met with limited success because they frequently focus on one facet of the issue; attempts to remedy one specific problem related to poverty are insufficient and can leave families discouraged. Multifaceted poverty programs exist, but these programs simply bundle services together and do not focus on also changing family patterns (McLoyd, 1998). For example, an intervention focused on increasing income may not examine the link between stress and income. Finally, many of the services to help alleviate poverty are provided in settings or in ways that are not directly applicable to an individual family's setting. Due to lack of transportation or other issues, the individuals who can most benefit from the services may not be able to access them. To date, no program has used a research based approach that combines the specific aspects found in the LSL program and provides services to targeted families in a way that is easily accessible and applicable. …

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