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  • Individual Author: Wood, Robert G.; McConnell, Sheena; Hsueh, JoAn; Clarkwest, Andrew; Moore, Quinn
    Reference Type: Report
    Year: 2010

    This report is a technical supplement to the 15-month impact report for the Building Strong Families (BSF) evaluation (Wood et al. 2010). It provides additional detail about the research design (Chapter I), analytic methods (Chapter II), and variable construction (Chapters III and IV) that were used for the 15-month analysis. Chapter V of this report provides a discussion of the subgroup analysis that was conducted. The full set of impact results generated as part of this analysis is included in the appendices of this volume. (author abstract)

    This report is a technical supplement to the 15-month impact report for the Building Strong Families (BSF) evaluation (Wood et al. 2010). It provides additional detail about the research design (Chapter I), analytic methods (Chapter II), and variable construction (Chapters III and IV) that were used for the 15-month analysis. Chapter V of this report provides a discussion of the subgroup analysis that was conducted. The full set of impact results generated as part of this analysis is included in the appendices of this volume. (author abstract)

  • Individual Author: Dion, M. Robin; Avellar, Sarah A.; Clary, Elizabeth
    Reference Type: Report
    Year: 2010

    The Building Strong Families (BSF) project was launched in 2002 to develop, implement, and rigorously test voluntary interventions aimed at strengthening the families of unmarried couples with children. BSF programs were implemented by non-profit and public agencies at 12 locations in seven states, and enrolled more than 5,000 volunteer couples, who were randomly assigned by the BSF research team to an intervention or control group. The intervention featured up to 42 hours of multi-couple group sessions led by trained facilitators, focusing on skills that, according to earlier research, are associated with relationship and marital stability and satisfaction. The BSF project grew out of research in four areas: demographic shifts in family formation; the consequences of those shifts for the well-being of children; the needs and circumstances of low-income families; and the potential of relationship education for strengthening the families of unmarried couples.

    The purpose of this Executive Summary and the accompanying report is to document the design and implementation of...

    The Building Strong Families (BSF) project was launched in 2002 to develop, implement, and rigorously test voluntary interventions aimed at strengthening the families of unmarried couples with children. BSF programs were implemented by non-profit and public agencies at 12 locations in seven states, and enrolled more than 5,000 volunteer couples, who were randomly assigned by the BSF research team to an intervention or control group. The intervention featured up to 42 hours of multi-couple group sessions led by trained facilitators, focusing on skills that, according to earlier research, are associated with relationship and marital stability and satisfaction. The BSF project grew out of research in four areas: demographic shifts in family formation; the consequences of those shifts for the well-being of children; the needs and circumstances of low-income families; and the potential of relationship education for strengthening the families of unmarried couples.

    The purpose of this Executive Summary and the accompanying report is to document the design and implementation of BSF programs, report on services received by the program group to which the intervention was offered, analyze characteristics of couples and programs that may affect participation, and describe the experiences of program group couples. A report on the effectiveness of BSF—its impacts on the lives of couples and their children—is expected in 2010. (author abstract)

  • Individual Author: Dion, M. Robin; Hershey, Alan M.; Zaveri, Heather H.; Avellar, Sarah A.; Strong, Debra A.; Silman, Timothy; Moore, Ravaris
    Reference Type: Report
    Year: 2008

    The Building Strong Families (BSF) project is a large-scale program demonstration and rigorous evaluation to learn whether well-designed interventions can help interested romantically involved unmarried parents build stronger relationships and fulfill their aspirations for a healthy marriage if they choose to wed. The central question of the evaluation is whether interventions can succeed in helping these parents improve their couple relationships, enter into and sustain healthy marriages, and enhance the well-being of their children.  Sponsored by the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) at the U.S.  Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), the project has been underway since late 2002 and involves programs operating in seven sites.  This report analyzes the implementation of the BSF program in these sites and presents information on their development, operations and lessons learned, and provides context for the future analysis of program impacts on couples and their children.  Specifically, the report addresses the following questions:

    What is the...

    The Building Strong Families (BSF) project is a large-scale program demonstration and rigorous evaluation to learn whether well-designed interventions can help interested romantically involved unmarried parents build stronger relationships and fulfill their aspirations for a healthy marriage if they choose to wed. The central question of the evaluation is whether interventions can succeed in helping these parents improve their couple relationships, enter into and sustain healthy marriages, and enhance the well-being of their children.  Sponsored by the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) at the U.S.  Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), the project has been underway since late 2002 and involves programs operating in seven sites.  This report analyzes the implementation of the BSF program in these sites and presents information on their development, operations and lessons learned, and provides context for the future analysis of program impacts on couples and their children.  Specifically, the report addresses the following questions:

    What is the context in which programs are implemented?

    How are participants identified as eligible for BSF and then enrolled in the program?

    What are the characteristics of couples that choose to enroll in BSF?

    How is the BSF model put into operation at local sites?

    To what extent do enrolled couples attend and complete BSF?

    What is the experience of couples enrolled in the BSF program?

    What are the lessons learned that may be useful for other similar programs?

    (author abstract)

  • Individual Author: Dion, M. Robin; Avellar, Sarah A.; Zaveri, Heather H.; Hershey, Alan M.
    Reference Type: Report
    Year: 2006

    The BSF project is both a demonstration and a rigorous evaluation. The evaluation will thoroughly analyze whether the intervention is successful in improving the outcomes of the couples and their children. Interested and eligible couples are randomly assigned to either the program group or to a control group. Program group couples are invited to participate in the BSF intervention; control group couples are free to receive whatever services may be available except the BSF program. Randomly assigning couples in this way eliminates the concern that differences between couples who choose to participate in the program and those who do not would generate differences in outcomes that would obscure the true effects of the program. This could happen, for example, if these couples had greater commitment or stability in their relationship compared to couples who did not express interest in the program. With random assignment, differences in outcomes are unbiased and can be attributed to the program.

    An initial pilot stage offered seven local sites the opportunity to develop...

    The BSF project is both a demonstration and a rigorous evaluation. The evaluation will thoroughly analyze whether the intervention is successful in improving the outcomes of the couples and their children. Interested and eligible couples are randomly assigned to either the program group or to a control group. Program group couples are invited to participate in the BSF intervention; control group couples are free to receive whatever services may be available except the BSF program. Randomly assigning couples in this way eliminates the concern that differences between couples who choose to participate in the program and those who do not would generate differences in outcomes that would obscure the true effects of the program. This could happen, for example, if these couples had greater commitment or stability in their relationship compared to couples who did not express interest in the program. With random assignment, differences in outcomes are unbiased and can be attributed to the program.

    An initial pilot stage offered seven local sites the opportunity to develop programs in accordance with the BSF model and make refinements based on early experiences. At the end of the pilot, sites were selected for the evaluation. To be selected, sites had to demonstrate that they could effectively implement the program model and recruit and retain a sufficient number of couples. All seven pilot sites qualified for the evaluation, although some conditions must still be fulfilled in some sites.

    This report documents early lessons from the program development and pilot stages of the project. The information we draw on was gathered during the pilot period, which generally ran from February 2005 to February 2006. Since that time, all sites have expanded into full-scale operations, and changes may be occurring as a result of ongoing experience and technical assistance. Therefore, current practices may differ somewhat from what is reported here.

    Although this report is based on a very early stage of the BSF project, it represents a policy-relevant advance in our understanding of the field of healthy marriage initiatives—particularly in terms of the strategies that hold promise for supporting low-income unwed couples as they strive to achieve their aspirations for a healthy marriage. The report does not analyze impacts, nor does it replace a full-scale implementation study, which will not be available for another year. It does, however, document the successes and challenges experienced by the BSF pilot sites and the approaches they took to address these challenges. It also sheds some light on the types of families that are attracted to the BSF program and on their responses to it. As such, the report offers lessons not only for federal policymakers, but also for other states, agencies, and program practitioners seeking to develop similar programs. (author abstract)

  • Individual Author: Bir, Anupa; Lerman, Robert; Pilkauskas, Natasha; Root, Elisabeth; O’Brien, Carolyn; Winston, Pamela
    Reference Type: Report
    Year: 2005

    The Community Healthy Marriage Initiative (CHMI) is a key component of the demonstration strategy of the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) to determine how public policies can best support healthy marriages. Two concepts underlie the CHMI strategy. One is that community coalitions can be an effective vehicle for developing a range of healthy marriage and healthy family activities, including classes that build relationship skills, but also partnerships with clergy and others, celebration days, and media messages about the value of marriage and healthy families. The second is that communities with a critical mass of such activities can exert positive family impacts on individuals and couples directly through their participation in classes and other services and indirectly through their interactions with friends, family, and others in the community who were themselves influenced by a local marriage-related activity sponsored by the local coalition. The goals of the 1115 healthy marriage initiatives are to achieve child support objectives through healthy marriage...

    The Community Healthy Marriage Initiative (CHMI) is a key component of the demonstration strategy of the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) to determine how public policies can best support healthy marriages. Two concepts underlie the CHMI strategy. One is that community coalitions can be an effective vehicle for developing a range of healthy marriage and healthy family activities, including classes that build relationship skills, but also partnerships with clergy and others, celebration days, and media messages about the value of marriage and healthy families. The second is that communities with a critical mass of such activities can exert positive family impacts on individuals and couples directly through their participation in classes and other services and indirectly through their interactions with friends, family, and others in the community who were themselves influenced by a local marriage-related activity sponsored by the local coalition. The goals of the 1115 healthy marriage initiatives are to achieve child support objectives through healthy marriage activities.

    This report focuses on the role of community coalitions in supporting healthy marriage activities and presents a description and analysis of the early implementation of the section 1115 child support waiver demonstration in Nampa, Idaho, a city of nearly 70,000 people. This report provides evidence that a local community coalition can leverage sufficient resources to stimulate a substantial amount of marriage-related and family relationship activities at a modest cost. This report does not address the question of impacts on marriage or child support outcomes of participants or others in the community. Healthy Families Nampa’s initial operations should be viewed as a pilot of community approaches to healthy marriage that, given time and available funding, could develop into a full-scale community healthy marriage initiative (CHMI). (author abstract)

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