The Forever Initiative: Increasing stability, reducing poverty one family at a time
They also found that across the country, the states that spent more money per capita on marriage-strengthening initiatives had fewer out-of-wedlock births and fewer children living with single parents. But when Washington, D.C.'s positive outlier data was thrown out (the district spent more than double the amount of the next-highest state, Oklahoma), the positive findings became statistically insignificant, though still pointed in a positive direction.
These mixed reviews don't necessarily mean that marriage-strengthening programs aren't working, said Bill Coffin, a recently retired special assistant for marriage education in the Administration for Children and Families. What it means is the programs are new and perhaps the evaluation tools aren't refined enough yet, he said.
"It's the first go-round," he said. "Some people would say, 'Head Start's been at it for 40 years and is still struggling to get it right. But rather than critiquing other ways of spending money, we're looking at 1 percent of TANF in the hopes that we would, with refinement, with new research, with new program development, be able to show that the glass being half empty doesn't matter much to the couples who attend, who say 'If it wasn't for you, our glass would be completely empty.'"
Hawkins' six proposals:
- Increase and improve relationship-literacy education for youth and emerging adults
- Offer marriage-preparation education for engaged couples (or marriage-focused classes for cohabiting parents)
- Provide ongoing marriage-maintenance education, specifically focused on the early years of marriage
- Offer divorce-orientation education to provide education about reconciliation as well as healthy ways of dealing with conflict and going forward with co-parenting
- Pay for these programs through 1 percent TANF fund allocation and a small portion of marriage license fees
- Offer federal support to these programs through conducting research and sharing findings and creating national media campaigns to promote these programs and their benefits
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