Piloting a Community Approach to Healthy Marriage Initiatives in Three Sites: Chicago, Illinois, Boston, Massachusetts, and Jacksonville, Florida

Publication Date: June 15, 2008


The Community Healthy Marriage Initiative (CHMI) is a key component of the healthy marriage demonstration strategy of the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) to determine how public policies can best support healthy marriages and child well-being. The community healthy marriage demonstrations discussed in this report are funded through waivers granted by the Office of Child Support Enforcement (OCSE) under authority of Section 1115 of the Social Security Act. Two concepts underlie the CHMI strategy. One is that community coalitions can be an effective vehicle for developing a range of healthy marriage and healthy family activities, including classes that build marriage skills, partnerships with clergy and others, celebration days, and media messages about the value of marriage and healthy families. The second is that communities with a critical mass of such activities can lead to positive outcomes for families, individuals and couples as a direct result of their participation in classes and other services and indirectly through their interactions with friends, family, and others in the community who were themselves influenced by a local marriage-related activity sponsored by the local coalition. The goals of the section 1115 healthy marriage waiver initiatives are to achieve child support objectives through healthy marriage activities.

This report focuses on the implementation of three OCSE funded Section 1115 CHMI projects:  the demonstrations in Boston, Massachusetts; Jacksonville, Florida; and Chicago, Illinois. CHMI projects generally involve local coalitions that aim to provide their communities with marriage education, relationship skills training, media messages, and other related activities. Although each site has its specific mix of services, all attempt to engage a coalition of public, private, secular, and religious organizations to sponsor their own activities and thereby promote the overall goals of the initiative. All are trying to implement community-level strategies to encourage healthy marriages and parenting and improve child support outcomes, thereby generating benefits for children as well as couples.

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