Saint Louis Healthy Marriage Coalition “My child’s father and I can now begin working on sticking together when making decisions.” – Female respondent after participating in St. Louis Healthy Marriage Program September 13, 2006 Office of Child Support Enforcement Conference Marriott Crystal Gateway, Arlington VA Special Improvement Project: Priority Three OCSE Healthy Relationship Skills for Fragile Families: A Teaching Demonstration Project Bridget Brennan Executive Director, St. Louis Healthy Marriage Coalition Project Officer for SIP Grant Priority Three INTRODUCTION Personal responsibility is the foundation for any change in behavior Major focus of project is to expand the base of service providers in our community who will be trained to reach a significant percent of fathers and mothers in designated geographic areas Training will equip these parents with solid, practical and effective parenting skills Teaching parents personal responsibility Responsibility for their personal lives Responsibility for the lives of their children Healthy parenting skills can transfer to healthy relationship skills. RATIONALE: NEED FOR ASSISTANCE Within underserved ethnic and culturally diverse populations, a significant number of young adults have entered into parenthood without the essential skills necessary to form and sustain a healthy, permanent relationship. Some striking statistics: In 1998, 64% of African-American births were to unmarried women. Over the last 30 years, African-American marriages have dropped 41%. 60% of unmarried parents vs. 24% of married parents have children by more than one partner. The poverty rate is 35.2% for children in single-parent homes vs. 8.2% in married parent homes. These statistics illustrate the need for fragile families to be educated in healthy parenting and relationship skills MOTIVATION Effective relationship skills are key for children being able to count on their parents for the financial, medical, and emotional support the children need to be healthy and successful. Children of engaged fathers are less likely to have health, behavioral, and school problems. These children are in turn more likely to grow up as engaged parents themselves. Putting children first and utilizing the Family Wellness program, we hope to ensure that parents make healthy relationship decisions and decide if marriage is appropriate. PROGRAM OBJECTIVES Improved relationships between parents and their children; Increased parental involvement with their children; Increased financial payments from non- custodial parents for their children; Decreased number of adversarial relationships between parent partners; and Increased progress toward family formation among parent partners. GOALS: YEAR ONE Provide child support enforcement education training, including paternity establishment, to any service providers who have not received case education training. Identify and eliminate barriers to seeking child support assistance. Teach men and women to move from an adversarial attitude to one of cooperation with each other for the benefit of the child. Build a collaborative, community effort, which will provide CSEA education, including paternity testing and family wellness training in order to form and sustain healthy marriages. SERVICE DELIVERY: NUTS & BOLTS Collaboration between: State of Missouri Division of Social Services Fathers Support Center St. Louis Healthy Marriage Coalition Missouri child support enforcement agency Local St. Louis Family Support Division offices Partnered with: Head Start Lutheran Family Services Women’s Safe House Lemay Family Care Center Our Lady’s Inn Black Leadership Roundtable Family Resource Center La Clinica Manos Unidas Salvation Army Pregnancy Resource Center Local churches Classes meet during days, evenings, and Saturdays, for two 2-hour sessions (both open and closed classes, Year 1) PRINCIPLES OF FAMILY WELLNESS Family Wellness curriculum serves as the foundation for program service delivery Research-based, culturally competent program used throughout the United States to address essential parenting skills, personal responsibility skills, and basic relationship skills. Target audience is at-risk urban African American, Bosnian and Hispanic mothers and fathers. RECRUITMENT & MARKETING To date, we have recruited and marketed our program through a variety of mediums Partner Agencies Support and Referral from Missouri Division of Family Services 1-800 Number advertised in community Posters and Brochures Speaking at various community meetings to spread the word Phone Book Advertisements CHALLENGES Recruitment is an on-going challenge Providing classes for a gender mixed population rather than just one gender Expanding contact hours Bringing parents of same child together for classes MEASURABLE OUTCOMES Actual Numbers served: 292 custodial and non-custodial parents have been served. Our goal had been to serve 214 the first year. We believe we exceeded our goals for the following reasons: Commitment of trained Family Wellness instructors Quality of Family Wellness curriculum Ability of partner agencies to recruit participants Family assistance gift was a perk PARTICIPANT CHARACTERISTICS Three-quarters of participants (75%) were female The majority (64%) were African American, followed by 23% who were Hispanic More than three-quarters (77%) of participants were between the ages of 20 and 39 years, for an average age of 32 years The number of children reported by participants ranged from none to nine, for an average of 2.4 children per participant More than half (59%) were employed either on a full-time or part-time basis Services provided at twelve sites CHILD SUPPORT CHARACTERISTICS Medical Coverage: I pay cash / I don’t My child’s other My health Medicaid get billed know parent’s health insurance insurance Who provides 7% 6% 13% 8% 67% medical coverage for your child? (N = 186) Birth Certificate Documentation: Yes No I don’t know Is your name listed on the birth certificate 7% 6% 13% for your child? (N = 54 male participants) CHILD SUPPORT CHARACTERISTICS Paternity & Child Support Documentation: Yes No I don’t know Did you use a paternity test to confirm the 20% 80% 1% biological father of your child? Do you have court ordered child support for 30% 69% 2% your child? ( N = 128) Monetary & Material Support Given to the Parent Partner: Yes No Do you give your child’s other biological parent money to 24% 76% help for your child’s expenses? (N=38) Do you give your child’s other biological parent items such 20% 80% as diapers, clothes, and food? (N=40) CURRICULUM COMPONENTS Curriculum Components Received by Participants Percent (n=171) Parents in Healthy Families 81% Children in Healthy Families 40% Couples in Healthy Families 40% Change in Healthy Families 40% Solving Family Problems 29% Passing on your Values 17% BEST PRACTICES Engaging presenters Role plays Gender mixed classes Family Wellness Coordinator who stays in close contact with all instructors and sites to provide sites with necessary support and resources Cohesive professional working team including: Family Wellness Coordinator, Family Wellness Research Team, Business Manager, and Executive Director COMMENTS FROM PARTICIPANTS Comments about what participants gained from the Family Wellness Program: I have learned to listen to what he might have to say. We never talked before and now we do, so I can use this information to get a deeper understanding of where he is coming from. I’ve learned to calm down and think before I yell. I usually brush him off, but now I will take more time to listen. COMMENTS FROM PARTICIPANTS Specific comments from NON-CUSTODIAL PARENTS about what they gained from the program: I now realize how difficult it is to take care of the children with me not staying with them. I really want to sit down with my kids one- on-one and see how they feel about things. It’s teaching me to be a better father and a better man.
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