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One-to-One with Geezeo: Michael Edmonds, Executive Director of the Center for Child and Family Services

September 25, 2017
Laurel Overby

When you have the opportunity to ask some of the most interesting people in financial services and Fintech about where the industry is headed, sometimes the most fascinating insights are revealed. One-to-One with Geezeo is an ongoing series that gives our friends, clients, and partners an opportunity to share their experiences and their knowledge to gain an idea of where this exciting industry is heading. In this installment we talked with Michael Edmonds, Executive Director of the Center for Child and Family Services a non-profit organization that deliver quality counseling programs & support services to those in need around the Hampton Roads region of Virginia.

Geezeo: Tell us about the Center For Child & Family Services:

Mike: The Center for Child & Family Services is a non-profit organization that has been serving the Hampton Roads community since 1943. We serve thousands of people each year from our Hampton and Williamsburg offices. Over the last 75 years, our goal has not changed which is to help our neighbors in need by empowering them to face life’s challenges through counseling and support services. We provide over 18+ programs and over 40+ services that range from mental health counseling, domestic violence intervention and counseling, job readiness, youth and adult anger management and credit, debt and budget counseling. These are just a few of our client centered programs.

Geezeo: How does the Center's credit counseling differ from similar organizations?

Mike: We are one of the few small credit counseling programs that is still providing services. Many credit counseling program over the past 10+ years have merged their programs and services into the larger agencies that serve many clients over multiple states. We, at the Center for Child & Family Services and our Consumer Credit Counseling Services of Hampton Roads program, feel that the best way to help those in financial need is to provide face-to-face in person counseling. Our counselors are all certified credit counselors through the National Foundation of Credit Counseling (we have been a member since 1983), which provides the client with the assurance that they are working with a highly trained individual. Our credit counseling program is small, but our staff has over 90 years of service to the agency – that is what makes us differ from the rest. We provide face to face counseling and it will be the same familiar face they will work with while they are in our program.

Geezeo: What goes into the process of credit counseling?

Mike: It is a comprehensive review of each client’s credit and budget situation. We meet with clients to review his or her financial position, to gain a better insight into what has veered them off their financial path. After this initial budget assessment, we want to set new financial goals and objectives. This review will lead to the new budget and spending plan so that they can reach their financial goals.

Sometimes it takes more than just developing a new budget, it takes the client enrolling into a debt management program. A debt management plan is for clients who are struggling with credit card and unsecured debt – normally getting further and further behind with late and over the limit charges on their credit cards. If the client voluntary chooses to enroll in a debt management plan, we would set up a monthly repayment plan to their creditors and they make one monthly deposit that is sent out to their creditors. Once the creditor accepts the proposed amount, the creditor will enroll them in that creditor’s debt management program, which means reduced finance charges, waived late & over the limited fees by bringing the account current. The purpose of a debt management plan is to assist the client and /or family to become debt free. Normally, a debt management program will take 36 - 60 months to complete (depending on amount of debt and monthly payment plan).

Geezeo: Name some of the misconceptions about credit counseling.

Mike:

Services are expensive
The fee for counseling depends on the state law. Budget counseling through an NFCCC Member Agency is either free or low cost. One of the NFCC’s Member Quality Standards is that no one be denied based on inability to pay. For hardship cases, the fee will be waived.

Situation is beyond repair
If someone has severe credit card debt, there is always a solution to help to get them back on track and get piece of mind. A good solution would be the debt management plan, which is a way to pay your creditors. With the program, a person can benefit from reduced finance charges, and lessen collection call. One monthly payment to the credit counseling agency will disburse the funds to your creditors.

Credit counseling will hurt your credit score
This is possibly the biggest misconception when it comes to financial counseling that people think consulting with an agency and speaking with a credit counselor can impact your credit score. This is not the case. Having an appointment to speak with a credit counselor is not reported on the credit report and a credit counseling debt management program can help one make consistent monthly payments which in the long run may help to increase someone’s score.

Geezeo: How does the Center work with financial institutions?

Mike: The agency is a member of the National Foundation for Credit Counseling. The NFCC Creditor Relations department develops and maintains relationships with senior management of national creditors that benefit NFCC member agencies such as us. We are working together with creditors to assist consumers with the primary emphasis on repayment programs for unsecured debt.

Geezeo: What advice would you give young professionals who have a passion they want to pursue?

Mike: To live your dream, do something that gives you passion – don’t just chase a paycheck. It does take a lot of hard work; dedication, skill and a little bit of luck sometimes to make our professional dreams come true. Remember, not every road one takes will lead you to your dream job, but one needs to develop (on paper) their professional dreams, map out a game plan to reach those dreams and revisit that plan at least annually. Goal setting and planning is key – for example, it is hard to dream of becoming the lead guitar player in a touring rock band if one does not know how to play the guitar. One has to have a game plan to reach that dream! Most importantly never forget to Dream Big!!

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