Menu Close

A Poverty-Informed Approach
to Leadership for Change

Leaders set the tone for prioritizing what we do to improve the well-being of children and families. As part of CalTrin’s poverty-informed training series, we engaged leaders with a deeper understanding of strategies for building services that break poverty barriers.

The discussion and related materials focused on systemic change and building community capacity as well as poverty-informed leadership practices. 

Leading an organization that is responsive and successful in addressing poverty barriers requires a well-considered process and vision. Below you will find resources curated by the CalTrin team intended to stretch how leaders think about poverty and the families they serve, as well as the role of the Protective Factors in developing poverty-informed practices.

Community Opportunity Map

The Casey Family Programs’ Community Opportunity Map is an interactive tool that highlights the aspects of communities that are associated with safe children and strong families. This interactive, research-based framework is composed of select U.S. Census Bureau indicators and is available for any community in the nation to use. It was informed by significant evidence of the community factors correlated with child maltreatment and a healthy community framework developed by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The tool maps community indicators at geographic levels defined by the user, from the state level down to neighborhoods. Access the Community Opportunity Map online here.

Institute for Child and Family Well-being

The “Overloaded: Understanding Neglect” podcast from the Institute for Child and Family Well-being explores the complexity of neglect, its root causes and challenges that families experience that overload them with stress, and the opportunities that we have to improve our communities, organizations, and systems that build strong families and thriving children. Listen to the episode on Understanding Neglect: Poverty. 

Episode summary: Poverty, like neglect, is a constellation of complex challenges. We are too often investigating families for child maltreatment because other systems are failing. When this happens, a family that may have been experiencing temporary financial insecurity becomes more vulnerable to compounding factors such as homelessness and mounting stress. It’s in these moments that a family becomes vulnerable to a child welfare investigation and potential family separation. So how might we begin to address financial insecurity before it becomes poverty? How might we support families experiencing poverty before it leads to child neglect? 

MITM Behavioral Economics at Work

In this brief video from Mind in the Making, Lawrence Aber, PhD, discusses how behavioral economics is being used in program design to address barriers faced by parents and families in supporting child development. Dr. Aber is a Professor of Psychology and Public Policy at New York University.  Mind in the Making is a program of the Bezos Family Foundation that curates the science of children’s brain development and learning, shares it with the general public, families, and professionals, and translates this research into transformational in-depth training and materials. 

Policy Research & Policy Podcast: Sarah Halpern-Meekin on ‘Social Poverty’

Listen to Sarah Halpern-Meekin from the Institute for Research on Poverty, University of Wisconsin-Madison, discuss the concept of social poverty. In meeting the needs of low-income families, how can we provide information or resources in a way that promotes dignity and human connection? We can be purposeful in designing programs that meet social needs in addition to economic needs. 

Additional resources by Halpern-Meekin:

Poor Kids: What Poverty Means to Children in America

When we can’t afford to pay our bills, like, our house bills and stuff, I’m afraid, like, we’ll get homeless. Me and my brother will starve. You never know what’ll happen in your life, so yeah.” –Kaylie (age 10)

The 2017 documentary, Poor Kids, explores what poverty means to children in America through the stories of three families. After watching the film, discover what happened to these families in FRONTLINE’s 2019 follow-up story.

SPENT Simulation

The SPENT simulation was created by the ad agency McKinney for the Urban Ministries of Durham, whose mission is to provide food, clothing, shelter, and supportive services to its neighbors in need. SPENT offers more than a discussion about poverty—participants will actually experience what life is like for someone trying to survive poverty on a day-to-day basis. Whether you play individually or as a team/class, SPENT challenges players to choose between real-life, equally agonizing alternatives. Pay for your mom’s medicine or keep the lights on? Cover the minimum on your credit cards or pay the rent? Players are allotted $1,000 to live on for one month, and the game ends after 30 days or if the participant runs out of money sooner. Click here to play SPENT.

Stanford Center on Poverty & Inequality: America’s Poverty Course

It’s a special moment in U.S. history in which income inequality has reached unprecedented levels, poverty remains extreme, and racial and gender inequalities are intransigent. Why is there so much poverty and inequality? How might they be reduced? Learn the answers to these questions and more from leading experts in the field through Stanford University’s course on poverty and inequality. They offer a free nine-week online course, or you can opt to watch the course videos at your own pace (approx. 5 minutes each). Topics include Income Inequality, The Experience of Poverty, The Causes of Poverty, Educational Access & Outcomes, Social Mobility & Jobs, Gender Inequality, and Race, Ethnicity, & Immigration. Learn more and register for future courses online here.

Additional Resources

Extend Your Learning with CalTrin!

CalTrin’s innovative learning model enables child- and family-serving professionals to choose training and educational experiences that work for their schedule, learning style, and career path—all at no cost to learners. It also provides opportunities to extend learning beyond an individual training event by supporting participants with related resources and practical applications. Whenever possible, we record our trainings! Check out the replay from CalTrin’s webinar, Social Poverty: The Impact of Connection.


In this training hosted by CalTrin and led by Dr. Sarah Halpern-Meekin, we introduce participants to the concept of social poverty and explore how social poverty may motivate individuals’ choices, including around participation in programs and services. Participants reflect on how providers can structure service programs in consideration of the role of social poverty in the lives of participants/clients. Watch the replay and access training materials here.

Explore our Calendar for upcoming webinar and workshop opportunities as well as browse our Training Archive for additional webinars and workshops related to this topic.


*Last updated December 8, 2023