High levels of divorce, cohabitation, and fragile unions, especially among the less educated in the United States, mean that unprecedented numbers of children are growing up in families without two parents in a healthy, stable relationship. This family instability poses increased risks to children’s well-being and healthy development.
This report by Alan J. Hawkins, Professor of Family Life at Brigham Young University and independent writer Betsy VanDenBerghe documents federal and state policy experiments designed to help couples form and sustain healthy relationships and enduring marriages. It reviews the research to date on how effective these efforts have been and responds to legitimate concerns about them. The authors specifically advocate the following policies:
- Transferring direction of healthy marriages and relationships initiatives (HMRIs) from the federal government to states
- Downsizing the current policy that awards federal grants to a variety of community organizations delivering educational services and reallocating most of those funds to reimburse states
- Supplementing TANF funds by setting aside $10-20 of each marriage license fee
- Using state-directed funds to support a strategic set of relationship education services delivered by community organizations targeted primarily to young at-risk individuals and couples