Building Strong Families

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Building Strong Families:Evaluating an Intervention to Nurture the Bond Between Unwed ParentsSheena McConnellACF Annual Welfare Research and Evaluation ConferenceJune 6, 2006: 

Building Strong Families: Evaluating an Intervention to Nurture the Bond Between Unwed Parents Sheena McConnell ACF Annual Welfare Research and Evaluation Conference June 6, 2006

Slide2: 

The views expressed in written conference materials or publications and by speakers and moderators at HHS-sponsored conferences, do not necessarily reflect the official policies of the Department of Health and Human Services; nor does mention of trade names, commercial practices, or organizations imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.

Program Goal: 

Program Goal To help unwed parents build stronger relationships and fulfill their hopes for marriage Target population Unwed, romantically involved biological parents at around the time of their baby’s birth

The BSF Intervention: 

The BSF Intervention Marriage and Relationship Skills Education

BSF Conceptual Framework : 

BSF Conceptual Framework Contextual Factors Socio-Demographic Characteristics Marriage and Relationship Skills Groups Support Services Family Coordinators Interventions Parents’ Relationship Child Parenting/Father Involvement Family Structure Family Self-Sufficiency Parent Well-Being Economic Resources Available to Child Social and Emotional Development Language Development Marital/Relationship Status Parents’ Relationship Quality Coparenting Relationship with New Partner Child Characteristics Family Stressors and Supports Quality of Couple Relationship at Baseline Services Marriage and Relationship Skills Education Home Visits and Other Support Services

Two Evaluation Components: 

Two Evaluation Components Implementation analysis How was BSF implemented? What strategies can be used to strengthen future programs? Experimental impact analysis Does BSF affect outcomes? Does it work better for some families than others? Under what circumstances does BSF work best? How do the programs work?

Three Design Issues: 

Three Design Issues

BSF Targets Couples : 

BSF Targets Couples Need to randomly assign couples, not individuals Need to collect information on both members of the couple Need to ensure privacy of individuals during data collection We separated couples to ask sensitive questions

Need to Prioritize Data Collection : 

Need to Prioritize Data Collection BSF may have wide-reaching effects On many different people (couple, child, other children in the family, new partners) On many outcome domains Need to keep survey instruments short Focus on Mother, father, and BSF child Outcomes most likely to be affected by BSF Collect data on child outcomes in later follow ups

Some Outcomes Are Not Defined for the Whole Sample: 

Some Outcomes Are Not Defined for the Whole Sample Relationship quality not defined when couple splits up Lose benefits of experimental design when compare only selected members of program and control groups Solutions: Construct outcome measures with value for everyone, e.g. in a committed relationship Nonexperimental methods

Where Are We Now?: 

Where Are We Now? BSF implemented in 7 pilot sites All 7 met criteria for inclusion in evaluation Sites continue to be monitored 760 couples recruited for the evaluation Study enrollment began 2005, will end 2007 15-month follow-up survey will begin in Fall 2006

Early Lessons from the Building Strong Families Project : 

Early Lessons from the Building Strong Families Project Sarah Avellar M. Robin Dion Heather H. Zaveri Alan M. Hershey ACF Annual Welfare Research and Evaluation Conference June 6, 2006

Pilot Preceded Full Program Implementation: 

Pilot Preceded Full Program Implementation Pilot phase was critical for program development Sites observed for 4-6 months during pilot Seven sites participated

The Pilot Study: 

The Pilot Study Early Lessons (report forthcoming) Implementation approaches Recruitment andamp; characteristics of couples Participation strategies andamp; couples’ reactions Limitations Sites in different stages; some could not be included in analysis of pilot Very early phase of implementation for all sites

Data Collected on Pilot Sites: 

Data Collected on Pilot Sites

MPR Developed Guidelines For Program Models: 

MPR Developed Guidelines For Program Models Guidelines helped maintain consistency across sites Yet sites still varied in numerous ways: Selected curriculum for group sessions Implementation approach Recruitment strategies Population served Participation strategies

Sites Selected a Curriculum that Met Guidelines: 

Sites Selected a Curriculum that Met Guidelines Loving Couples, Loving Children (LCLC) Dr. John Gottman and Dr. Julie Gottman Atlanta, Baltimore, Baton Rouge, Florida, Indiana Love’s Cradle (LC) Mary Ortwein and Dr. Bernard Guerney Texas Becoming Parents Program (BPP) Dr. Pamela Jordan Oklahoma

Features of Marriage and Relationship Skills Curricula: 

Features of Marriage and Relationship Skills Curricula

Variations in Program Settings: 

Variations in Program Settings Integrating BSF into an existing program BSF services combined with those of another program Existing Healthy Families sites Adding BSF to a multi-program agency BSF added to array of other independent programs Community-based organizations Creating BSF from the ground up Develop BSF outside of existing programs Sites that had not previously offered direct services

Integrating BSF into Existing Program: 

Integrating BSF into Existing Program Benefits Existing staff structure Developed procedures Established connections with recruitment sources Challenges Multiple missions Overburdening couples Serving low-income men

Adding BSF to a Multi-Program Agency: 

Adding BSF to a Multi-Program Agency Benefits Free of competing philosophies Families accustomed to coming to centers Operated programs for fathers Challenges Creating a family coordinator position Shift to recruiting couples

Creating BSF from the Ground Up: 

Creating BSF from the Ground Up Benefits Free of competing philosophies Hire individuals accepting of the BSF mission Challenges Develop program infrastructure Create links with family support services

Recruitment: Critical First Step: 

Recruitment: Critical First Step Maternal health system was dominant source Timing of recruitment: pre- or post-natal Meeting parents together or in sequence Screening for domestic violence: structured or conversational approach

Recruitment Results Modest but Improving: 

Recruitment Results Modest but Improving During the pilot, most sites recruited 10-15 couples per month Sites now recruiting approximately 14 to 28 couples per month

Diverse Population Recruited: 

Diverse Population Recruited

Many Have High School Education But Low Earnings: 

Many Have High School Education But Low Earnings

Most Live Together But Have Complex Families: 

Most Live Together But Have Complex Families

Most Expect to Marry: 

Most Expect to Marry

Encouraging Participation in Groups: 

Encouraging Participation in Groups All sites offered at least three supports: Child care Transportation Meals and refreshments Other strategies Social rewards Individual attention Tangible incentives

Couples Very Positive About BSF Services: 

Couples Very Positive About BSF Services Some couples had initial concerns about the group sessions prior to participation Both men and women who came to the sessions were very active and engaged Participants enjoyed the sessions Felt it was improving their relationship skills Liked the group format Would recommend it to others

Lessons: Program Feasibility: 

Lessons: Program Feasibility With careful planning and piloting, sites can implement BSF in a variety of ways BSF attracts the interest and voluntary participation of unmarried couples

Lessons: Recruitment: 

Lessons: Recruitment The pilot period gave sites the opportunity to refine strategies and improve recruitment rates The maternity health care system is an efficient recruitment source for this population Cohabiting couples are especially likely to enroll in BSF programs

Lessons: Participation: 

Lessons: Participation Group attendance is a challenge Getting couples to start group sessions Sustaining attendance Pilot suggests intermittent but sustained attendance over a long period Supports, such as child care, transportation, and meals, are essential.

Lessons: Couples’ Reactions: 

Lessons: Couples’ Reactions Many couples are unfamiliar with healthy marriage programs and may initially have concerns Among couples who attend, most respond very positively

Couples Getting it Right: An Inside Look at Healthy Marriage/Relationship SkillsPrograms M. Robin DionACF Annual Welfare Research and Evaluation ConferenceJune 6, 2006: 

Couples Getting it Right: An Inside Look at Healthy Marriage/Relationship Skills Programs M. Robin Dion ACF Annual Welfare Research and Evaluation Conference June 6, 2006

Purpose: 

Purpose A lack of familiarity with the intervention may impede effective implementation Funders and supporters Program referral and intake staff Staff that provide supplementary services Potential participants

Prospective Participants’ Concerns: 

Prospective Participants’ Concerns Is this therapy? (I’m not crazy.) Is this school? (I didn’t do well in school.) Is this a lecture? (I don’t want to be told how to run my life.) Is this a sermon? (I don’t want to be judged.) What if I don’t fit in? (I don’t want to be embarrassed.)

A Tool for Demystifying Healthy Marriage Programs: 

A Tool for Demystifying Healthy Marriage Programs A tool to explain what it is and what it isn’t Footage from actual healthy marriage workshops for low-income parents Profiles one couple’s experience Couples of diverse backgrounds In small group discussions Listening to group facilitators Practicing relationship skills with their partners

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