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Project conducted by Mathematica Policy Research, Inc.
With subcontractors Manpower Demonstration Research Corporation, Public Strategies, Inc., The Urban Institute, Decision Information Resources, Inc. Under contract to the Administration for Children and Families U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Mathematica Policy Research, Inc. website Manpower Demonstration Research Corporation website Urban Institute website Decision Information Resources, Inc. Administration for Children and Families website United States Department of Health and Human Services website      

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Reports | Issue Briefs | Journal Articles


BSF's Effects on Couples Who Attended Group Relationship Skills Sessions: A Special Analysis of 15-Month Data (May 2011)

This report uses two quasi-experimental research techniques to examine the effects of Building Strong Families, a relationship skills education program for unmarried parents, on couples who received the core program service of relationship skills group sessions. The analysis finds no strong evidence of Building Strong Families’ effects on the couples’ relationships, with one exception. Among the 3 in 10 couples who attended at least half of the group sessions offered, Building Strong Families appears to have increased the likelihood, by 7 to 10 percentage points, that these couples were living together (married or unmarried) at the 15-month followup.

Initial Implementation of a Couples-Focused Employment Program (October 2010)

This report evaluates the initial implementation of the Couples Employment (CE) project in Baltimore, Maryland, a voluntary intervention to simultaneously address employment, financial literacy, and relationship issues, to capitalize on the ways that success in each might affect the other. Initial experiences highlighted the importance of defining a program model integrating family stability and economic success, identifying a strong program director,achieving an appropriate staff mix, and maintaining a focus on couples.

15-Month Impacts of Oklahoma's Family Expectations Program (August 2010)

This report presents findings from an analysis of the implementation of Family Expectations, one of the programs examined in our Building Strong Families study, and a rigorous evaluation of program impacts on couple and family outcomes. After 15 months, couples in Family Expectations showed significantly greater improvement in their relationship quality, father involvement, co-parenting, and maternal psychological well-being, compared with control couples.

Strengthening Unmarried Parents’ Relationships: The Early Impacts of Building Strong Families: Executive Summary (May 2010)

This executive summary details the key findings of Strengthening Unmarried Parents’ Relationships: The Early Impacts of Building Strong Families.

Strengthening Unmarried Parents’ Relationships: The Early Impacts of Building Strong Families (May 2010)

This report provides impacts of BSF on couples about 15 months after they applied for the program. Early impacts show that, when results are averaged across the eight individual programs included in the evaluation, BSF did not achieve its primary objective of improving the stability and quality of the couples’ relationships. Results varied across the eight programs with positive effects for one program and negative effects for another.  Other programs had little or no effects on relationships. BSF had overall positive effects for African American couples—improving the quality of their relationships.
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Strengthening Unmarried Parents’ Relationships: The Early Impacts of Building Strong Families: Technical Supplement (May 2010)

This report is a technical supplement to the 15-month impact report for the BSF evaluation. It provides additional detail about the research design, analytic methods, variable construction used for the 15-month analysis, and a discussion of the subgroup analysis. It also includes additional impact results not presented in the main report.
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The Building Strong Families Project: Implementation of Eight Programs to Strengthen Unmarried Parent Families (May 2010)

This report documents the design and implementation of the eight BSF programs, reports on services received by couples enrolled in the program, analyzes characteristics of couples and programs that may affect participation, and describes the experiences of program group couples.
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Implementation of the Building Strong Families Program (January 2008)

This report highlights key findings from an implementation analysis of BSF’s program sites in Atlanta, Baltimore, Baton Rouge, Florida, three counties in Indiana, Oklahoma City, and Houston and San Angelo, Texas during the evaluation's first 6 to 14 months. The analysis documents recruitment and enrollment practices, describes the characteristics of enrolled couples, provides data on program participation, and summarizes the experiences of couples participating in the intervention. Individuals who enrolled in the program were typically in their mid-20s and often had children from prior relationships. Although most had a high school education, earnings and income were low. More than half the recruited sample members were African American, about one-quarter were Hispanic, and about 14 percent were non-Hispanic white. The average couple had known each other for several years, were cohabiting, and had high hopes for marrying their partner.
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Implementing Healthy Marriage Programs: Early Lessons (July 2006)

This report documents early lessons from pilot demonstration sites in Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Louisiana, Maryland, Oklahoma, and Texas from early 2005 to early 2006. The report shows that unwed parents in the program are interested in programs such as BSF that will help them build the necessary skills to form and sustain healthy relationships. It also indicates that, overall, couples responded positively to the programs and valued the group format and learning from other couples' experiences.
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Guidelines for Developing BSF Programs (August 2004)

These guidelines can help interested sponsors design and deliver program services such as Westclean end of tenancy cleaners. They detail the three program components of the BSF programs: instruction in skills associated with healthy marriage, family support services, and family coordinators.
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Lessons from Family Connections in Alabama (May 2004)

Family Connections in Alabama (FCA), a 12-month project conducted in 2003, aimed to design, implement, and evaluate a program to provide family life education to low-income unmarried parents of young children. This report describes and develops lessons learned from FCA that are relevant for designing and implementing programs to serve low-income unmarried couples having children—the population served by BSF programs. Implementation lessons identified include issues relating to staffing, service delivery format, recruitment and retention, and curriculum use.
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Helping Unwed Parents Build Strong and Healthy Marriages: A Conceptual Framework for Interventions (January 2003)

This report presents a conceptual framework for designing, implementing, and testing interventions for low-income unmarried parents interested in strengthening their relationships and possibly forming and sustaining healthy marriages. It builds on research showing that the period around a child's birth is a critical moment for strengthening couple bonds.
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Issue Briefs

Characteristics of Fragile Families: Implications for BSF Programs

This brief summarizes information from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study about the characteristics and relationships of unwed parents. The findings can help state and local agencies and other groups interested in programs like BSF gain a better understanding of their target population and develop interventions that respond to their needs and circumstances.
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Strengthening Relationships and Supporting Healthy Marriage

The first publication in the BSF issue brief series focuses on program design aspects of the conceptual framework for interventions with unmarried parents to help them strengthen their relationships and, if they so choose, form and sustain healthy marriages.
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Journal Articles

The Effects of Building Strong Families: A Healthy Marriage and Relationship Skills Education Program for Unmarried Parents (February 2012)

This article in the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management examines the impacts of Building Strong Families, a healthy marriage and relationship skills education program serving unmarried parents who were expecting or had recently had a baby. Results varied across sites, with one site having a pattern of positive effects and another having numerous negative effects. However, when impacts are averaged across all sites, findings indicate that the program had no overall effects on couples' relationship quality or the likelihood that they remained together or got married.

Healthy Marriage Programs: Learning What Works (Fall 2005)

Public and private interest in programs to strengthen couples' relationships and reduce the number of children growing up without both parents is growing. The central policy question is whether effectively implemented programs can increase the number of children, especially in disadvantaged populations, who are raised by both parents in healthy and stable relationships, ideally marital. The author describes such programs; discusses the main challenges and opportunities in implementing them in low-income populations; and explains how researchers, policymakers, and practitioners are beginning to learn whether they work.
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