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Report

Supporting Healthy Marriage Toolkit

Resources for Program Operators from the Supporting Healthy Marriage Demonstration and Evaluation

05/2011

What is the Supporting Healthy Marriage Toolkit?

The Supporting Healthy Marriage (SHM) team consists of researchers, curriculum developers, and social service delivery professionals who were funded to research and oversee the development of community-based programs that provide relationship education to married parents. This Toolkit was developed by the SHM team to guide emerging SHM programs as they developed and implemented various aspects of the program design and research agenda — with the goal of helping program operators develop a strong, successful program. Our goal in providing this document for general use is that managers and staff of relationship and marriage education or other voluntary programs will benefit from the program design and management strategies used by SHM program operators.

The original intent of the Toolkit was to instruct SHM operators in developing programs that adhere to a common SHM model. Because the viability of the research required some uniformity across programs, this guide instructs program operators with some authority. However, in providing this document for general use, the SHM team is not asserting that these strategies will result in a successful marriage and relationship education program. Rather, the SHM team is providing strategies for consideration that may be useful to other program operators.

This Toolkit covers a variety of topics, and the appendixes offer sample tools that were developed for and by the SHM program operators. Some aspects of program design and the content of the sample tools were influenced by the research model and funding requirements. For example, sites were asked to recruit 800 couples in a 21-month period, which meant programs focused on developing a robust approach to recruitment and enrollment. Although future program operators may not face the same requirements for recruitment or participation, the guidance and strategies in this Toolkit are relevant to providers of voluntary marriage education programs, particularly for those interested in offering relationship education services to married parents. Future programs are likely to face many of the same challenges in recruiting couples to a voluntary program and keeping couples coming back over time.

There are three important program areas that this Toolkit does not address: budgeting, evaluation, and domestic violence. SHM programs operated under unique circumstances, so SHM budgeting and evaluation resources are less relevant to non-SHM program operators. To address domestic violence, SHM sites, like other federally funded healthy marriage programs, followed the guidance created by the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence in consultation with the Administration for Children and Families and the National Healthy Marriage Resource Center. These resources are available online and include a “Promoting Safety” resource packet and blueprint to guide the development of domestic violence protocols.

This Toolkit is divided into 12 sections, each focused on a specific aspect of program implementation or management. Although the Toolkit was not designed to be read “cover to cover,” different parts of the Toolkit support and reinforce each other. Appendix A contains an acronym list that may be a useful resource as you review the following sections.

If you have questions about the material in this Toolkit, please contact Sharon Rowser, MDRC Vice President, Sharon.Rowser@mdrc.org.