By Elizabeth Darling, Commissioner, Administration on Children, Youth & Families and Clarence Carter, Director, Office of Family Assistance
As Americans anticipate gathering together with family for Thanksgiving, we at the Administration on Children and Families (ACF) recognize the benefits of healthy marriages and thriving families—which include long-term health and well-being, safety, economic mobility, stability, and self-sufficiency—for all the family members seated around the dinner table. This is why ACF is committed to supporting programs that work to develop and maintain healthy relationships - including marriage - where parents support each other and their children.
Within the Family & Youth Services Bureau, our Sexual Risk Avoidance Education programming teaches middle and high school youth about healthy relationships and the value of following the success sequence for poverty prevention: (1) graduate from high school, (2) get a full-time job, and (3) wait until marriage to have children.
Within the Office of Family Assistance, our Healthy Marriage and Responsible Fatherhood (HMRF) Initiative funds programs that teach couples about the benefits of healthy marriage and relationships where both parents are present for the well-being of the children, share the responsibility of the household, and raise the children together. Ideally, children with involved, loving fathers are significantly more likely to do well in school, have healthy self-esteem, and exhibit empathy and pro-social behavior as compared to children who have uninvolved fathers. The Responsible Fatherhood component of HMRF supports fathers by building their economic and social capacity to be there for their vital role in the health and well-being of their children.
Perhaps you’ve heard the words of the childhood song: “First comes love. Then comes marriage. Then comes baby in the baby carriage.” However, ACF programming is more than just an outdated lyric on a piece of sheet music. Sexual Risk Avoidance Education is more than just telling young people to avoid sex, and Healthy Marriage and Responsible Fatherhood programming is more than just saying, “I do.” Both of these programs take a holistic approach to teaching the benefits of healthy relationships and choices, including marriage, to achieve a brighter future.
The Sexual Risk Avoidance Education and Healthy Marriage and Responsible Fatherhood approaches make both dollars and sense. Studies show that Americans are much more likely to have economic stability and mobility if they follow the “success sequence”—getting at least a high school degree, working full-time, and marrying before having children, in that order. Other research shows that people live longer, have less stress, and are more financially stable in a healthy family environment where both parents are present, married, share the responsibility of the household, and raise the children together.
ACF works to strengthen vital components of our society that can help.
We at ACF know that there are common sense and practical ways to help children and strengthen families. We see the two important programs highlighted here as some of the ways to do so.
Each year in the U.S., there are approximately 2 million new marriages. ACF wants the best for all children and families and works to help Americans form, improve, and sustain strong relationships, when possible, between spouses, parents, and children. And those healthy family relationships—which do require family members’ hard work, patience, and community support—are something to be very thankful for.
For more information about our Sexual Risk Avoidance Education program, check out the ACF Family Room for our blogs introducing Sexual Risk Avoidance Education, and more details on the first two steps: (1) Graduate from High School, and (2) Get a Full-Time Job.
For more information about our Healthy Marriage and Responsible Fatherhood Initiative, visit our Office of Family Assistance webpage.