- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 4, 2003

With funding for marriage-promotion activities virtually assured this year, researchers are busy preparing blueprints to help states embrace the concept of advising unmarried parents about the benefits of marriage.”In fact, most unmarried parents with a new child have high hopes for their relationship,” M. Robin Dion and Barbara Devaney of Mathematica Policy Research Inc. wrote in a recent report.Data from the national Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study, based at Princeton University, show that 82 percent of poor, unmarried couples are “romantically involved with each other” at the time their children are born.Moreover, 55 percent of the mothers and 72 percent of the fathers think their “chance of marriage” is “pretty good or almost certain.”Still, one year later, fewer than 10 percent of these couples are married, as interpersonal problems, unemployment and the stress of raising a newborn take their toll.A state pro-marriage program could begin by assessing a couple’s interest in marriage, the Mathematica report said.States then could offer programs to strengthen the couple’s relationship and parenting skills, and offer employment training to help them become more “marriageable.” States also could review their welfare and child-support policies to ensure that marriage is a positive step economically.The House welfare bill allows up to $300 million a year for pro-marriage activities.A Senate Finance Committee welfare bill, expected in mid-May, is likely to have a similar provision, since Chairman Charles E. Grassley, Iowa Republican, “strongly supports” it, aides said this week.The Mathematica report is part of a federally funded project in partnership with major research groups, such as Manpower Demonstration Research Corp., Urban Institute, Public Strategies Inc. and Decision Information Resources Inc.The report identifies 19 marriage education, mentoring and inventory programs that could be “a good starting point” for state programs.Ten of the programs are suitable for engaged couples, five are faith-based and three are for new parents.The report also anticipates that state workers will have many questions about how to add a “marriage component” to their services. These and other issues, such as substance abuse, domestic violence and mental illness, all have to be addressed in new programs, the report concludes.

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