- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 20, 2002

The Bush administration is committed to promoting marriage and strengthening families, an administration official said at a seminar that focused on the need for a marriage revival.
Because "healthy" marriages are associated with child well-being and a prosperous society, "we should not seek to simply be neutral about marriage," Wade F. Horn, assistant secretary for children and families at the Health and Human Services Department, said at the Friday event, which was sponsored by the Heritage Foundation.
Government should be clear that it's not interested in forcing people into marriage, serving as a matchmaking service, withdrawing support for single parents or trapping people in abusive relationships, Mr. Horn said. Government also should not devalue marriage by equating it with cohabiting or encourage unhealthy marriages, he said.
But what government should do through incentives and other approaches is encourage "healthy marriages or, in Diane Sollee's words, 'smart marriages,'" Mr. Horn said, referring to the organizer of the nation's largest annual conference on marriage.
Mr. Horn noted that just last week, President Bush signed the reauthorization of the federal Promoting Safe and Stable Families (PSSF) program, which now clarifies that its funds can be used for marriage education and marriage enrichment programs.
Pro-marriage activity always had been an allowable expense of the PSSF, but until now, "it wasn't listed as a service, specifically," Mr. Horn said.
Robert Rector, the Heritage Foundation's welfare analyst, told the audience of Hill staffers, state lawmakers and traditional family advocates that Congress and the states have a lot more work to do in fulfilling the 1996 welfare law's aims of reducing illegitimacy and encouraging marriage.
Congress has given states nearly $100 billion in welfare funds, but "states have spent less than $3 million on authentic activities that promote marriage," Mr. Rector said.
Stephen R. Covey, author of "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Families," outlined several practical ways families and couples could improve their relationships.
Families, for instance, can create "family mission statements" that can serve as a guide to decisions, activities and priorities, he said. Furthermore, all family members benefit when they learn how to become empathetic listeners and seek solutions that are "ours" rather than "yours" or "mine."
"The basis of all moral authority is sacrifice," Mr. Covey said. "Be a model, not a critic. Empathize. Understand. Serve. Sacrifice."
Edwin J. Feulner, president of the Heritage Foundation, moderated the event and David Caprara, president of the American Family Coalition, outlined state efforts to promote marriage and responsible fatherhood.

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