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September 2010Vol. 11, No. 7Early Outcomes From the Building Strong Families Project

As part of its ongoing research on strengthening families and healthy marriage, the Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation (OPRE) within the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) recently released reports on the implementation and early impact of the Building Strong Families (BSF) project. The BSF project was launched in 2002 to develop, implement, and test voluntary interventions aimed at strengthening the relationships of unmarried couples with children and improving child well-being. BSF programs were implemented in eight locations across the country, offering relationship skills education and other support services to unwed couples who were recent or expectant parents. The new OPRE reports address the program's design, services, and participation, and they present early findings on the stability and quality of couples' relationships.

The Building Strong Families Project: Implementation of Eight Programs to Strengthen Unmarried Parent Families provides details on several aspects of the design and implementation of the project to date, including:

  • An overview of the program model and evaluation design
  • Profiles of the eight locations implementing BSF programs
  • Recruitment strategies and participant characteristics
  • Program participation and practices to improve it
  • Couples' experiences with the program in their own words

The Building Strong Families Project: Strengthening Unmarried Parents' Relationships: The Early Impacts of Building Strong Families presents outcomes for couples 15 months after they applied for the program. The outcomes studied include relationship status and quality, conflict management, parenting strategies, and father involvement. The report presents several major findings:

  • When averaged across all eight programs, BSF did not make couples more likely to stay together or get married, nor did it improve couples' relationship quality.
  • Only the Oklahoma City, OK, program demonstrated a consistent pattern of positive effects for couples; in contrast, the Baltimore, MD, program resulted in several negative effects.
  • BSF improved the relationship quality of couples in which both members were African-American, leading to increased fidelity, mutual support and affection, constructive conflict management, and reduction of intimate partner violence.

The authors suggest that future analyses addressing child well-being and long-term outcomes for couples may provide a more complete picture of the overall effects of the BSF project.

In addition to the newest reports, the OPRE website includes BSF reports from 2006 and 2008 addressing employment and the early phases of project implementation. View or download all BSF reports on the OPRE website: