“Self-Sufficiency”- What Does It Mean?

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary self-sufficient is an adjective that means, “able to maintain oneself or itself without outside aid; capable of providing for one’s own need; having an extreme confidence in one’s own ability or worth”. Self-sufficiency is “the quality or state of being self-sufficient”. The Early Intervention and Prevention (EIP) initiative in Marion County has as one of its goals to “promote the welfare of children and self-sufficiency of families with children at risk of abuse or neglect, dependency, or delinquency”. But what does promoting the self-sufficiency of families really look like?

In a recent survey sent out by EIP to solicit community responses for the development of the EIP three-year strategic plan a series of questions were asked regarding the concept of self-sufficiency. The first question was about the development of a common definition in Marion County of self-sufficiency. Respondents agreed that a common definition for self-sufficiency should be developed (44% strongly agreed and 50% agreed); however, they had many comments regarding the following definition that was proposed:

“A family’s ability to meet the basic needs of the members (including social, emotional, financial, medical, educational, transportation, housing, etc.) and/or the ability to identify unmet needs and identify and access resources.”


Comments included such things as: “I like the comprehensive nature of this, I’d be tempted to include food or nutrition.”… “This is ok as a very basic definition, but it can be interpreted in so many different ways that I question its efficacy.”… “I would include safety and cultural tolerance.”… “Who defines the baseline for meeting ‘basic needs’?”… “It’s a good definition of “Family” self-sufficiency, not self-sufficiency in general.”

Additionally, out of 129 responses 62.7% of the respondents agreed that there is a discrepancy between what self-sufficiency means to families and how it’s defined by the programs they may access. 3.1% did not agree there was a discrepancy, 28.6% did not know, and 5.4% did not respond. Comments were varied and included the following: “I think there is not a standard measurement among agencies.”… “Yes, because every family’s idea of self-sufficiency is different.”… “From my experience of working with families, self-sufficiency is only viewed from a financial perspective.”… “I would say the discrepancy lies with the education of the families. They may not know what the word self-sufficiency means there for are unable to define it or understand an agency’s use of the word.”… “’Self-sufficiency’ for an organization or services that has a middle-class or above operational culture is likely to define ‘self-sufficiency’ differently and/or lack sensitivity to how non-middle class families define ‘self-sufficiency’. For example, illegal practices to secure housing, money or transportation could be considered “self-sufficiency”.

What do you think? To weigh in and provide insight into the development of the EIP strategic plan please complete the survey so that your voice can be heard.

For more information about the Early Intervention and Prevention (EIP) initiative visit our website at www.mccoyouth.org or contact Shanna Malott, Early Intervention Community Coordinator at 317-921-1233 or [email protected].

One Reply to ““Self-Sufficiency”- What Does It Mean?”

  1. I agree that being self-sufficient would mean that you could make sure that all you and your families need are met yourself. I would think that would be something that would be important to make sure that your children know how to do. I’ll have to make sure to teach my kids to be self-sufficient.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *