$600K Federal Grant Used to Strengthen Marriages
The Orange County Social
Services Agency (OCSSA) was awarded a $600,000 Strengthening Marriages
federal grant running through September 2006. Family and Consumer
Science professor Jim Koval, one of the collaborators providing
program implementation services, and Social Work assistant professor
Carrie Petrucci received the evaluation grant of $33,345.
"We're very pleased
to be recognized," said Koval, who joined CSULB in 1982. "The
funding comes as part of the Bush Administration's Healthy Marriage
Initiative with the goal of strengthening parenting couples' relationships
as a vehicle to improve the quality of life for children,"
Koval explained that the spillover onto children that results from abuse or neglect often originates in dysfunctional parent, marital or relationship dynamics. "If we can teach couples how to effectively manage their interpersonal conflicts, it will provide a safer and more stable environment for children."
The grant targets parenting couples where one or both partners have a report of child abuse and/or neglect on their record, and are voluntarily participating with the child welfare system to maintain their intact family and stay out of the court system.
"What we are offering
is secondary-level intervention to prevent families at risk from
eventually falling into severe dysfunction, where their children
may need to be removed from the home and the parents become part
of the court system," said Koval.
The federal grant supports delivery
of a highly effective couples communication/ conflict skills program
called Relationship Enhancement (RE). RE is a 17-hour program
aimed at helping couples to develop nine specific communication
"This is a program that
would otherwise cost between $375 and $450 per couple but which,
through the support of this grant, will only cost $25 per couple,"
said Koval. The evaluation will determine effectiveness of the
RE program as a component in the child welfare system. A quasi-experimental
design will track RE program participants and a comparison group
who do not participate in RE over the course of the three-year
The proposal drew one
of the highest ratings from the federal funding agency on the
strength of such innovations as the "train the trainer" model
of program delivery. Koval will serve as the RE program supervisor
responsible for training RE certified personnel to train RE leaders
who will train couples throughout Orange County.
Hopefully, through this grant, parenting couples throughout Orange County will come to more fully appreciate how impactful the quality of their relationship is on their children. As Koval said, "To parent well, couples need to partner well first."
Petrucci hopes the grant
will help contribute to the well-being of children at risk.
"I want to see children and families that come into the child welfare system get whatever they need to stabilize their families and enhance the well-being of children in a safe and healthy environment," she said.