A National Resource to Support Excellence in Community Action

Self-Sufficiency Standard Assessment Tool

Initial Posting: Jan 17, 2017

Community Action Southwest created its Self-Sufficiency Standard to determine and track levels of client self-reliance, and as a tool for goal creation.


Community Action Southwest (CAS) created its Self-Sufficiency Standard as its assessment tool to track individual and/or family autonomy.  The program is centered on a partnership of support, guidance, advocacy and growth between a caseworker and the individual/family served.

With the understanding that self-sufficiency is not simply an economic issue, CAS defined what it means to be “out of poverty” by creating the tool that draws from its community’s needs assessments as well as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Poverty in America Living Wage Calculator, 2012.  The agency has identified 10 criteria that clients must achieve for them to be considered “out of poverty.”  Those criteria include:

  1. Household has regular, adequate, self and family sustaining wages.
  2. Household demonstrates the ability to utilize and adhere to a spending plan.
  3. Household has access to an adequate food supply.
  4. Household has access to health insurance/medical coverage for all members.
  5. Housing is safe and affordable.
  6. Household has consistent access to a safe and reliable mode of transportation.
  7. Household has access to consistent and dependable means of childcare (if applicable) and has access to age appropriate educational resources.
  8. Client has completed the level of education he/she wished to obtain.
  9. Household is free of all forms of public benefits.
  10. Client has developed personal goals and has a vision for the future.

Each caseworker at the agency is tasked with partnering with at least one household to track their journey to self-sufficiency through the standard. The household’s success directly relates to how determined they are, how compliant they are in attempts to overcome barriers to self-sufficiency and how well they embrace the Family Development Plan they worked with their caseworker to develop.  Caseworkers are responsible for the management and oversight of concise, organized Family Development Plans, as well as making appropriate referrals and linkages to community resources as needed.

Tools used to guide service provisions include:

Eligibility for the Self-Sufficiency Standard is based on:

  • The household should not be in crisis.
  • The household has shown they are responsible and willing.
  • The household has a support system.
  • The household shows evidence and progress of working towards goals.

The Living Wage Calculator provides three sets of local-level data: (1) living wage calculation for families by family size and composition, (2) typical expenses, and (3) typical annual salaries for various jobs.



Since 2013, 165 households achieved the following outcomes:

  • 13 households have met 0-3 of the criteria.
  • 61 households have met 4-6 of the criteria.
  • 84 households have met 7-9 of the criteria
  • 7 households have met all 10 criteria.

Jessica Hajek-Bates, Director of Family Economic Success
724.225.9550 ext. 403