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									   From Research to Practice:
Interventions to Nurture the Bond
     Between Unwed Parents
                 Barbara Devaney
                Sheena McConnell

   Presentation at Looking Forward for Families:
    Texas Policy Symposium on Fragile Families,
   Responsible Fatherhood, and Healthy Marriage

                   May 14, 2004
                   Overview

   Research, policy, and funding are converging
    to promote strategies to support healthy
    marriage
   Unwed parents around the time of a child’s
    birth—fragile families—are a priority of ACF
   Important to learn what works best, for
    whom, under what circumstances—the goals
    of Building Strong Families (BSF)
     Why Focus on Unwed Parents?

   One-third of births are to unmarried parents
    – Single moms and children are at high risk of
      poverty and TANF

   Unwed parents are romantically involved and
    have high hopes for their relationships
    – Yet few marry

   Unwed parents have little access to help with
    relationships but may be open to it
Unwed Parents Around the Time of
   Birth is a Priority for ACF

   “Marriage education, marriage skills, and
    relationship skills programs, that may
    include parenting skills, financial
    management, conflict resolution, and job and
    career advancement, for non-married
    pregnant women and non-married expectant
    fathers”
    – In H.R. 4737 and H.R. 4
What Are the Challenges to Healthy
 Marriage For Fragile Families?

   Lower education, employment

   High economic bar set for marriage

   Complex family relationships

   Distrust of opposite sex

   Personal difficulties that affect relationships
    What Makes a Healthy Marriage?
   Interpersonal behaviors can predict
    success

   Skills-based instruction can strengthen
    relationships and reduce instability

   But most research has been done with
    married or engaged middle-class
    couples
                   How Might We Intervene?
                   A Conceptual Framework
1. Antecedents of            2. Program/Policy   3. Intermediate      4. Long-Term
   Family Formation             Interventions       Outcomes             Outcomes

Family Demographics
                                                                      Enhanced Child
                                                 Healthy Marriage     Well-Being and
Relationship Type and
Quality                                                               Development
                               Marriage and      Relationship
Multiple Partner Fertility
                               Relationship      Quality and          Improved Parent
                               Skills            Stability            Well-Being
Relationship Skills,
Attitudes, Expectations        Family Support    Positive Parenting   Reduced Non-
                               Services          and Parent-Child     Marital
Employability                                    Relationships        Childbearing
                               Family
Physical and Mental                              Father               Increased Family
Health
                               Coordinators      Involvement          Self-Sufficiency

Parenting Skills               Policy Changes    Improved Family
                               to Remove         Functioning
Cultural Factors               Disincentives
Economic Conditions and
Public Policies
      BSF Program Components

   Marriage and relationship skills education,
    information, and support
   Family support services to enhance
    “marriageability”
   Family coordinators to reinforce skills and
    promote participation
   Reducing “marriage penalties” in benefit
    programs
         Relationship Skills and
          Marriage Education

   Existing curricula focus on
    – Communication skills, conflict resolution
    – Importance of empathy
    – Building affection, deep friendship
    – How parenthood affects relationships

   Additional curriculum topics to focus on
    – Marriage
    – Trust and commitment, fidelity
    – Emotional regulation
    – Complex family relationships
      Family Services to Support
          Healthy Marriage
   Help finding stable employment

   Assistance on managing finances

   Parenting education

   Access to mental health and substance
    abuse services

   Access to child care, health care, housing
    assistance
           Family Coordinators

   Assess relationship and family needs
   Link families to needed services
   Reinforce relationship skills
   Provide sustained emotional support
   Encourage ongoing program participation
    and completion
      BSF Project Includes Program
       Development and Evaluation


   Develop and refine program models

   Provide technical assistance to potential
    programs

   Select six well-conceived programs for the
    evaluation

   Follow families for 3-5 years
www.buildingstrongfamilies.info

								
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