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Thursday, September 21, 2017

CED Department of Educational and Human Sciences

MDRC-SHM Implementation Plan

Have you ever known of a couple who walked down the isle - whether of the church or the clerk of courts - to be married while dreaming of discord and divorce? Neither have we. And yet, 1.2 million married couples divorce each year nationally, including 80,000 in Florida, resulting in $30 billion in divorce related costs.

Did you know that, according to a study by the University of Florida in 2003, 92 percent of Florida adults believe that a happy, healthy marriage is one of the most important things in life? And did you know that research shows the benefits of healthy marriages to adults and children, such as higher incomes, healthier copings skills, and higher grades? And yet, programs to support marriage are not a standard service available to married or soon-to-be married couples.

What if a program existed to support married couples? Do you know if it would help them achieve the long, strong marriage and raise happy, healthy children for which they wish, hope and dream? Neither do we. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and MDRC, a research and evaluation organization in New York, has given the Marriage and Family Research Institute in the College of Education at the University of Central Florida the exciting opportunity to study the effects of marriage education and support mechanisms on low to moderate income married couples with children - through the Supporting Healthy Marriage (SHM) Together Project.

As part of a national demonstration and evaluation program, the SHM Together Project and seven other sites in New York, Pennsylvania, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas and Washington (two sites) will each recruit and interview 800 couples. Randomly, 400 couples will be assigned to the control group that receives no SHM-related services, and 400 couples will be assigned to the program group that will receive 12 months of SHM-related services including 30-hours of marriage education, continuous family support and extended marriage and family-related activities. At the end of the year, MDRC will test the difference between the two groups and ultimately answer the question, "Do marriage education and supports help low to moderate income married couples with children have longer, stronger marriages and raise happy, healthier children?"

The SHM Together Project Team will succeed through hard work, humor and humility. Every team member is critical to the success of this test. The keys to success are reliable research and a strong program. Researchers, practitioners, policy makers, parents and their children are the stakeholders and the stakes are high. As stated by Gordon Berlin, President of MDRC, "The evidence in the end will determine the legacy."