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The SSRC Library allows visitors to access materials related to self-sufficiency programs, practice and research. Visitors can view common search terms, conduct a keyword search or create a custom search using any combination of the filters at the left side of this page. To conduct a keyword search, type a term or combination of terms into the search box below, select whether you want to search the exact phrase or the words in any order, and click on the blue button to the right of the search box to view relevant results.

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  • Individual Author: Dion, M. Robin
    Reference Type: Journal Article
    Year: 2005

    Evidence of public and private interest in programs designed to strengthen the institution of marriage and reduce the number of children growing up without both their parents is growing. Robin Dion addresses the question of whether such programs can be effective, especially among disadvantaged populations.

    She begins by describing a variety of marriage education programs. Although new to the social welfare umbrella, such programs have existed for several decades. Social scientists have evaluated a number of these programs and found them effective in improving relationship satisfaction and communication among romantically involved couples. All the programs tested so far, however, have served primarily white, middle-class, well-educated couples who were engaged or already married.

    Because these programs were neither designed for nor tested with disadvantaged populations, Dion observes, there is some question whether they can respond to the unique needs and circumstances of low-income couples, many of whom have multiple stressors and life challenges that can make...

    Evidence of public and private interest in programs designed to strengthen the institution of marriage and reduce the number of children growing up without both their parents is growing. Robin Dion addresses the question of whether such programs can be effective, especially among disadvantaged populations.

    She begins by describing a variety of marriage education programs. Although new to the social welfare umbrella, such programs have existed for several decades. Social scientists have evaluated a number of these programs and found them effective in improving relationship satisfaction and communication among romantically involved couples. All the programs tested so far, however, have served primarily white, middle-class, well-educated couples who were engaged or already married.

    Because these programs were neither designed for nor tested with disadvantaged populations, Dion observes, there is some question whether they can respond to the unique needs and circumstances of low-income couples, many of whom have multiple stressors and life challenges that can make stable relationships and marriages especially difficult. New research suggests that low-income families often face specific relationship issues that are rarely addressed in the standard programs, such as lingering effects of prior sexual abuse, lower levels of trust and commitment, and lack of exposure to positive role models for marriage. Dion describes the recent efforts of several groups to adapt research-supported marriage education programs or create entirely new curriculums so they are more responsive to and respectful of the needs of low-income families.

    Finally, Dion describes ongoing efforts by the Administration for Children and Families to evaluate rigorously the effectiveness of several healthy marriage initiative models being implemented on a large scale across the country. These evaluations will determine whether such programs can work with less advantaged and more culturally diverse families, including whether the impacts on couples’ relationships will translate into positive effects on the well-being of their children. (author abstract)

  • Individual Author: Dion, M. Robin; Strong, Debra A.
    Reference Type: Report
    Year: 2004

    To support further progress in this area, ACF is sponsoring a large-scale, comprehensive demonstration and evaluation of programs designed to strengthen relationships and support the marital aspirations of unmarried couples expecting a child: the Building Strong Families project (BSF). To inform the design and development of strong BSF programs, Mathematica conducted a related project (titled Evaluating the Implementation of Programs to Strengthen Families with Children Born Out of Wedlock, or ESF) to identify and study existing programs that have aspects similar to those envisioned for BSF programs. A major purpose of that project was to identify design and implementation issues likely to arise in BSF programs and describe strategies that have been used to address them in similar programs.

    One program that was deemed similar to BSF was Family Connections in Alabama (FCA). The FCA was a 12-month project conducted during 2003 that aimed to design, implement, and evaluate a program to provide family life education to low-income unmarried parents of young children. It was...

    To support further progress in this area, ACF is sponsoring a large-scale, comprehensive demonstration and evaluation of programs designed to strengthen relationships and support the marital aspirations of unmarried couples expecting a child: the Building Strong Families project (BSF). To inform the design and development of strong BSF programs, Mathematica conducted a related project (titled Evaluating the Implementation of Programs to Strengthen Families with Children Born Out of Wedlock, or ESF) to identify and study existing programs that have aspects similar to those envisioned for BSF programs. A major purpose of that project was to identify design and implementation issues likely to arise in BSF programs and describe strategies that have been used to address them in similar programs.

    One program that was deemed similar to BSF was Family Connections in Alabama (FCA). The FCA was a 12-month project conducted during 2003 that aimed to design, implement, and evaluate a program to provide family life education to low-income unmarried parents of young children. It was selected for study because it was one of very few newly emerging programs that included a focus on couple relationships among  low-income unmarried parents. Although some key aspects of the program differed from those of the BSF program model, several of the goals, approaches, and expected outcomes were similar enough to warrant examination for lessons that could inform the development and operation of BSF programs.

    This report describes and develops lessons learned from the FCA program that are relevant for designing and implementing BSF programs. It first describes the overall program design and planning, and then discusses implementation in each of the study sites, focusing on staffing, participant recruitment, curriculum, structure and content of classes, and receptivity of staff and participants to the program. The final chapter discusses implications for developing and operating relationship/marriage interventions with unwed couples—the BSF target population—and discusses how the lessons learned may apply to future BSF program design and content.

    This report is not an evaluation of the Family Connections in Alabama program. Rather, it focuses on what BSF program developers can learn from FCA given the underlying differences in program goals and design. A separate report presents findings of an evaluation of the FCA (Adler-Baeder et al. 2004). (author abstract)

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