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Twenty families who use the Y’s child care facilities are getting a chance to learn how to dream big — and make those dreams a reality — with a new family financial empowerment program.

The program, funded by the United Way, targets families with incomes between 100 percent and 200 percent of the poverty line. The Y has recruited a specialist in career coaching and life coaching, who will have initial one-hour sessions with each family during which they will set some financial and career goals, and then have follow-up sessions over the phone for the next several months.

The next phase is a motivational forum, where participants will come to the Y, have dinner and hear speakers discuss such topics as financial literacy, finding their passions and the importance of saving. Dinner will be served and child care will be provided, which is an important factor in making it possible for families to attend these events, says Matthew Cunningham, the family financial planning program coordinator. “it’s not just focused on finding a job, but asking people ‘what do you really want to do’ and looking at their skills, interests and what needs to be developed,” he says. “We’re focusing on their strengths and combining that with the life coaching philosophy. Instead of just saying ‘hey, you need to get a job’ — we say ‘you’re going to do this thing that is your passion, and we’re going to advocate on your behalf.”

Finally, if participants have attended the events and are working well with their career coach, they will be awarded a certain percentage off their childcare bill, up to half. For these families, who often live paycheck to paycheck and have to stretch every dollar, that’s a significant amount of money to have back in their monthly budget. And with the financial planning skills they have learned, they will be able to put the money to good use furthering their financial goals.

The program will kick off with families from the Boll and Lakeshore branches and expand to Farmington and Downriver later this year.  Childcare center directors helped recruit families, Matthew says, because they were aware of families that sometimes had to pay their bill late or were struggling in another way and could benefit from the training.

Empowering families to reach for a better future is the goal of the program, Matthew says. “So many of these parents are very committed and motivated. They’ve faced a lot of adversity and overcame those obstacles. Those folks who can make the commitment to do the coaching and commit to all the motivational forums can see a real change in  their life, and use the program as a catapult to a better level of life.