By: Dan Cohen
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Kansas City’s Local Investment Commission’s Youth Services Initiative works with more than 400 foster youth in Jackson, Clay and Platte Counties. A key part of that initiative - preparing them for life outside the foster system.
"They're trying to launch their lives, and they're trying to launch their adult lives, and they lack in some cases, permanent housing, they're trying to get into school, they're trying to pay for college. They're trying to pay for the incidentals of their ordinary life," Brent Schondelmeyer, LINC's deputy director for community engagement, said.
Those transactions demand a bank account.
"The situation is that you're 16 or 18 years old, normally in the banking industry, you require the signature of a parent to open a bank account. But if you're a foster youth, who is that parent, and what does that look like?" Schondelmeyer said.
That situation is shifting through a LINC and Lead Bank partnership, through young adult checking accounts.
"Being able to have a ATM card which is accessible, that there is no transaction fee on at all gives them the security and freedom of of being able to be have some agency in their life," Schondelmeyer said.
It’s one piece of Lead Bank’s efforts to open doors to local communities who have historically struggled to access banking resources.
"The banking industry has been legendary in not welcoming people of color, women, and other ethnic and religious minorities," Lead Bank CEO Josh Rowland said. "And it's a story that, frankly feels its consequences every day, every day in Kansas City."
Whether it’s through helping foster youth, investing in communities of color, the LGBTQ+ population and others, Lead Bank says it is moving into a new era.
"Accept the responsibility and the extra burden as an institution that is bound legally, to provide fair equitable access to financial services under federal law and state law," Rowland said.