The first Center for Working Families in Indianapolis was sponsored by the Annie E. Casey Foundation at George Washington High School in the Near West neighborhood (2004-2006),  with a focus on family financial literacy.  It was an outgrowth of the Foundation’s investment in “Community Schools” – public schools that function as hubs for neighborhood life, where families can participate in a variety of family-strengthening activities.  In 2007 the CWF moved to nearby Hawthorne Community Center, where financial literacy and coaching were bundled with employment services and income supports funded by the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) and Central Indiana Community Foundation (CICF) as part of CICF’s “Family Success” initiative.  In 2008, LISC and CICF jointly funded three more sites – Mary Rigg Center, Boner Center, and Southeast Community Services.  The network of four CWFs fostered a community of practice to improve and refine the coaching model.  LISC also implemented a rigorous performance management system to track family financial outcomes.

In 2011, LISC won a major federal grant from the Social Innovation Fund to expand the model to multiple locations in the LISC national network, with two new sites added in Indianapolis (Flanner House and Martindale-Brightwood Center for Working Families).   LISC adopted the name “Financial Opportunity Centers” in its national network while Indianapolis retained the CWF name.  CICF and other local foundations, including the Clowes Fund, the Pulliam Trust, and the Glick Fund, continued to support the Indianapolis initiative with generous matching grants.

In 2012, a new CWF site was launched at Ivy Tech Community College.  In 2014, the United Way of Central Indiana made a critical decision to help sustain and grow the CWF network as federal
funding wound down at the end of 2015.   There are currently eight sites in the Indianapolis supported by United Way.  LISC continues to provide limited support for a job training initiative in three CWFs called Bridges to Career Opportunities.


  • $4.5 mill public-private investment in CWF (2011-2015)
  • 13,000+ contacts with 7,000+ households (53% return rate)
  • 64% Female / 36% Male / 66% Minority  / Average Age = 39 / 1 in 4 = HS Dropout / 20% with Felony
  • 2,047 people employed
  • People receiving all three core services (employment, financial, income supports) were
  • 3-4 times more likely to achieve a positive financial outcome (see charts)
  • People receiving all three core services had better placement and retention rates
  • Factors affecting job placement
  • Age (older people had fewer placements)
  • Household size (larger HHs less likely to have placements)
  • Education (more educated people had higher placement rates)

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  • Clear association between bundled services and improved employment and financial outcomes (job placement and income gain)
  • Bundling has less effect on net worth and credit (much more time needed)
  • Intensity of services has positive impact (length of time and frequency of contact)
  • Achieving longer term gains in income, credit, and net worth will require more focus on career ladder services leading to higher wages and stronger labor market attachment