The Strengthening Families with Children Born Out-of-Wedlock project was jointly funded by ACF’s Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation and Office of Child Support Enforcement. Researchers conducting this study utilized research, information obtained from field observations, and expert consultation to develop a conceptual framework for the design and evaluation of interventions to improve the quality of couple relationships and healthy marriages among families with children born out-of-wedlock. A major focus was on interventions to help unwed parents who desire to marry to gain the skills and knowledge necessary to enter and sustain healthy marriages. An additional focus was on methods to help couples increase positive family functioning and child and family well being. The project also included the provision of technical assistance to State/local administrators interested in designing and implementing such programs.
The major research questions addressed include: (1) What are the challenges faced by unmarried parents and their children in maintaining cohesive and meaningful relationships? (2) What are the dynamics of these relationships? (3) What approaches are being taken to support unmarried parents, to strengthen their families and to increase permanence and marriage? (4) What is the nature of existing programs? (5) What are important lessons from program/field experience (e.g., identification methods, enrollment strategies, different approaches based on culture or ethnicity, targeting decisions, outcomes, source of services/providers; etc.)? (6) What are major challenges to expansion or replication of successful program models? (7) What are the major considerations for designing and launching an evaluation of such programs?