Strengthening the Implementation of Marriage and Relationship Services (SIMR), 2019 - 2022

Project Overview

What is the focus of this study?

Strong, supportive families are critical to the health and well-being of children.  Since 2005, Congress has authorized federal funding for healthy marriage and relationship education (HMRE) programs to encourage the formation of healthy relationships and stable, two-parent families. Administered by the Office of Family Assistance (OFA) within the Administration for Children and Families (ACF), the grants support programs that offer HMRE programming to couples, adult individuals, and youth.

Research has shown that HMRE programs often face implementation challenges in areas such as recruitment, participation, and program completion. In 2019, ACF’s Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation (OPRE) contracted with Mathematica and Public Strategies to conduct the SIMR project to develop and test promising implementation solutions to these challenges.

What activities will the study pursue?

SIMR will use rapid-cycle learning to pilot and refine promising solutions. Rapid-cycle learning involves testing and refining solutions in a series of short cycles to pilot the solution, collect and analyze data on the pilot, refine the solution, and try it again.  By helping HMRE grantees address implementation challenges, SIMR will also build their readiness for evaluation of program effects. Specifically, the SIMR team will:

  • Identify implementation challenges and solutions that are supported by evidence
  • Identify and partner with HMRE programs to participate in rapid-cycle learning
  • Work closely with program partners to pilot test and refine the solutions
  • Recommend program partners for participation in a possible future evaluation
  • Obtain input from research and programmatic experts and stakeholders to ensure the study includes diverse perspectives

What will the study produce?

The SIMR team will share findings widely, including:

  • A synthesis of common implementation challenges in HMRE programs and promising solutions
  • A description of program partners and plans for piloting solutions to common implementation challenges
  • Rapid-cycle learning findings about the feasibility of using specific solutions, and how well they worked

The point of contacts are Samantha Illangasekare or Shirley Adelstein.